How should you investigate an allegation of bullying? Are interviews with the alleged bully and witnesses a breach of confidence if the victim has asked you not to make things harder for them?

It is fundamental for a company to be aware of how to deal with allegations of workplace bullying effectively in order to avoid any ramifications such as loss of morale and productivity within the company or even employment tribunals and other court cases. Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards their employees and are responsible for preventing bullying within the workplace and are liable for any bulling experienced by their employees.

Investigations regarding bullying should take place both quickly and impartially. Complainants should be made aware of the Anti-Bullying Policy enforced by the company and any terms that must be adhered to when a grievance is lodged. The investigation must be objective and all factors should be considered i.e. harassment being felt differently by different individuals, and from these results action can be taken.  The matter should be discussed privately with the alleged perpetrator who must be given the opportunity to present their version of events and if found guilty the employer can enforce the company’s disciplinary procedures. It may be possible for such issues to be resolved informally, some individuals may be unaware that their behaviour is causing offence to others and once informed any ill behaviour will stop. The individual may be able to stop this behaviour themselves or may require assistance from workplace personnel.

It is not considered a breach of confidence to interview an alleged bully and indeed many policies on bullying or personal harassment within organisations include this step specifically. It could not be a rounded or a full investigation if the alleged bully is not spoken to as part of the investigation.

Although it is not at this stage a disciplinary hearing and an investigation meeting should not be conducted as such, it is still an important factor of an investigation to speak to all people involved. As this alleged bully is the focal point of the complaint, it is important that you speak to them.

You should explain to the alleged victim that they will not seek to compromise their position or make things harder for them, but that, if they wish for a full procedure to be adopted, speaking to the alleged bully is key.

If you are experiencing any problems with bullying in your workplace, please seek further advice by calling 0844 892 2772.