Bill seeking to stamp out bullying at work presented in Parliament

The Bill would introduce a legal definition of workplace bullying.

Martina Bet
Tuesday 11 July 2023 16:52 BST
Labour’s Rachael Maskell (Danny Lawson/PA)
Labour’s Rachael Maskell (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Archive)

A Bill seeking to stamp out bullying at work by providing robust mechanisms for reporting, investigation, and enforcement has been presented to Parliament.

Labour’s Rachael Maskell tabled her Bullying and Respect at Work Bill on Tuesday, which aims to address the issue of workplace bullying whilst also advancing positive behaviours within work environments.

The Bill would introduce a legal definition of workplace bullying, establish mechanisms for reporting and investigating incidents, and promote positive behaviours through a Respect at Work Code, with enforcement powers by the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

There's clearly a cost to employers and also a significant loss in working days. People who have experienced bullying often end up going off sick.

Rachael Maskell

Speaking to the PA news agency about her proposals, the York Central MP highlighted the lack of a direct route to restitution within the current legal framework.

She stressed that other jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada and other European countries, have already enacted laws to combat workplace bullying.

She said: “In regard to bullying, there’s no legal definition as such. Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have got a definition within their code of practice.

“There is no direct route to restitution either in law. So at the moment, you could resign from your post and claim unfair dismissal and go for that kind of channel or there is protection from harassment.

“That was the stalkers legislation, but that is not suitable. It’s not designed to address workplace bullying.

“Jurisdictions across the world have already put this into statute. So if you look at Australia, Canada, Scandinavian countries, Netherlands and others in Europe, they are so much further ahead.”

Ms Maskell also stressed how workplace bullying is a pervasive and widespread problem in the UK, with research suggests 4.9 million people, or 15% of the UK workforce have experienced bullying at work.

Speaking in the Commons, the Labour MP said: “My Bill will not just help people at work but employers, too. Bullying costs UK businesses £18 billion a year, over 17 million working days are lost each year due to work-related negative behaviours such as bullying, according to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).”

She added: “It is my experience that all can be subject to the destructive forces of bullying and all must receive protection under the law.

“In bringing forward this legislation, it is my hope that we can change the culture of work. For workers to no longer fear a day in the office, on a ward or even in this Parliament, but instead workers know that the law is on their side, justice is protecting them and they can receive the very help they need.”

Nicki Eyre, director of Conduct Change Advocates and Stop the Hurt at work campaigner, said: “I am delighted to see the proposed Bullying and Respect at Work Bill being championed by Rachael Maskell. Our movement aims to shed light on the issue of workplace bullying and the urgent need for its recognition within the framework of UK legislation.

“This Bill represents a significant step forward in the journey to addressing workplace bullying and fostering a culture of respect within UK workplaces. I am particularly pleased to see the cross-party support this proposal has already achieved.”

Ms Maskell presented her Bill via the 10-minute rule motion procedure, which allowed her 10 minutes to outline her proposals.

The Bill is unlikely to make further progress in its current form due to a lack of parliamentary time to debate Bills tabled by backbench MPs.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in