What should you do if you're a teacher being bullied?

Voice Community, NAHT and Acas answers questions in TES

By Richard Fraser, Editor

What should you do if you're a teacher being bullied?

TES, 22 November 2020:

"Bullying in the workplace can make a teacher's life miserable – here we ask experts about the support that is out there.

"Workplace bullying is a very real problem for teachers and school staff. In a 2020 survey run by the union Voice, 12 per cent of the respondents reported experiencing workplace bullying, and 23 per cent reported that they didn't feel safe at work.

"So what practical help is out there for teachers?"

Q: How do I know if I’m being bullied?

Acas: 

"Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It may not be obvious or apparent to others and it could happen at work without an employer being aware of it. Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. While it often occurs face-to-face, it can also occur in written communications, by phone, via email or on social media. You can read more about this here on an Acas blog."

Q: What should a teacher do if they find themselves being bullied?

Voice: Employers have a duty of care to all of their employees and anyone who is being bullied should feel that there is someone to whom they can turn. We know from experience that this, sadly, is not always the case.  

Bullying can take many forms but, basically, if the action of another creates a humiliating or offensive environment, then it could be considered unlawful.

According to our survey, employees experience bullying from a senior leader or manager in over 65 per cent of cases, and if there is nobody else in senior leadership to speak with, then employees must phone their unions for help and advice. 

NB: Both unions [Voice and NAHT] say that in order to be able to provide examples of the bullying, it is recommended to keep a chronological record and any written evidence of bullying activity.

Q: What happens if a student is bullying a teacher?

Voice: Student to teacher bullying is, thankfully, quite rare, but when it does happen it is difficult to resolve often because the teacher has usually taken longer to report it – either because of embarrassment or fear about what their colleagues might think.  

As with other types of workplace bullying, gathering evidence is key. It is also important that the individual does not try to address this on their own but should seek support from a manager or their union.

Q: What protection is there for teachers from workplace bullying?

Voice: Staff have the right to work free from bullying and harassment. The law protects against discrimination due to protected characteristics, and all employers should have a policy position and a process for investigating allegations of bullying and harassment, such as the grievance process, and this must be freely accessible to all staff.

Q: What happens if my employer doesn’t resolve the bullying, it continues, and then I leave the school?

Voice: If you raise a bullying concern with your employer and your employer fails to deal adequately with it, then you might be able to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal or even raise a civil or criminal claim for the most serious cases.

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