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Workplace bullying claims reach record high

The number of employment tribunals referencing bullying allegations reached a record high in the last 12 months.

Research from law firm Fox and Partners found there were 835 tribunals relating to bullying in 2021/22, up 44% from the previous year.

The number of claims has more than doubled since the 412 recorded in 2017/18.

Hybrid working environments, the report suggested, have brought new forms of bullying to the workplace, such as leaving colleagues out of remote meetings, comments over video calls, and gossiping over messaging platforms.

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HR Most Influential 2022 practitioner Tim Pointer, chief people officer at CAA Brand Management, said that transparency is crucial. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "When we're aware of these concerns, it's critical that we react swiftly, compassionately, empathetically, and most importantly, thoroughly. It's taking the time to really understand what's taking place to listen to the issues that are being raised.

"It's about giving the individual agency and control of the situation as much as you possibly can, and ensuring that they understand the next steps that will be followed, how long that's going to take, and the type of actions that you're going to work through."

Ivor Adair, partner at law firm Fox and Partners, said the results were an indictment of senior leadership.

He said: "Tackling workplace bullying is no easy task, particularly in changing work environments. The record number of bullying claims is a worrying sign that some leadership teams have struggled to maintain healthy workplaces during the shift to hybrid working.

"It is important for senior managers to ensure they are well placed to detect and address concerns from all levels of staff before conflict escalates. Employers must also be willing to enforce company policies to protect and support colleagues at risk, if workplace cultures are to be improved."

Pointer added that organisations have to ensure that their managers have the tools to deal with these problems.

He said: "In terms of everything we've lived through the last two and a bit years, managers have had to manage in very different ways because of homeworking, hybrid working and all of the economic hardship and challenges that organisations and individuals have had- it's it's a very different demand that we've put on them.

"There's the opportunity to look at these figures and also any other data that we have in our organisations and reflect and ask, have we done enough to set our teams and our managers up for success?"