Discrimination and Bullying in the Workplace

In a survey conducted by BUPA earlier this year, 26% of workers said they had experience of being bullied in the last three years.  As well as an increase in bullying, the research also found more than a quarter (28 per cent) of those polled had personally experienced discrimination at work, increasing to 35 per cent among women and 40 per cent among disabled employees.

DISCRIMINATION happens when an employer treats one employee less favourably than others. An example would be a female employee being paid less than a male colleague for doing the same job, or an employee from a minority ethnic community being refused the training opportunities offered to other colleagues. It is a wide-reaching area of law and can be direct, indirect or victimisation.

BULLYING at work can take many forms. It can be directed at you individually or can be related to work activities.  Whilst there is no definitive definition of workplace bullying (unlike harassment) it is commonly accepted that bullying involves negative behaviour being targeted at an individual, or individuals, repeatedly and persistently over a period of time.

Such behaviour can include instances of ignoring or excluding an employee, giving an employee unachievable tasks within his/her work, making repeated demeaning, condescending or patronising remarks or making the employee look stupid in front of his/her co-workers.   All of the above can lead to psychological and physical health problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and lowered motivation.


If you feel you are being bullied or harassed in your workplace then it would be prudent to make notes of all dates and times of any instances of harassment and/or bullying.  You should then review your employer’s policy in relation to harassment/bullying and consider whether or not the actions of others are regarded by your employer as acceptable or unacceptable. It may be the case that your employer’s policy does not go far enough.

Your employer’s policy should assist you in resolving any complaints you may have by setting out the procedures for you to follow if you are of the view that you are being bullied or harassed. If it is the case that your workplace does not have a policy, then you should speak to someone you trust in work.  This could be your Trade Union representative, a line manager or a colleague.

If you have exhausted your employer’s internal complaints procedure and are still of the view that a satisfactory outcome has not been achieved, you should seek qualified legal advice.  

If you have found yourself subject to discrimination or bullying within your place of work, we at MCCARTAN TURKINGTON BREEN will help you navigate the correct legal channels in order that you get the necessary specialist help, advice and potentially compensation.