Setfords Solicitors answers your legal problemsBy Rebecca Younger
May 14, 2012
EACH month Setfords Solicitors, in Guildford, answers your legal issues
My boss is making my life hell. I intensely dislike my manager at work and feel the difficult relationship is taking its toll on my personal wellbeing and my career. He keeps adding more and more to my workload, much of which he’s supposed to be responsible for himself, then leaves early while I’m stuck in the office until late trying to catch up.
I’m not alone in my concerns either – many of my colleagues feel the same way, but whenever we approach him about it he becomes defensive and extremely unpleasant. We’ve gone over his head and reported his behaviour to senior management, but they haven’t taken any action. Where can we go from here?
Vanessa Wheeler, employment solicitor at Setfords, says: "These types of situations are tricky. It sounds like he is a difficult person to work with and this is the way he operates. From what you say, I don’t get the impression that you are being discriminated against because of what we lawyers call a ‘protected characteristic’ – for example, gender, race, sexuality, pregnancy, age, etc.
"You could make a formal written complaint, or ‘grievance’, but proceed with caution. Some employers will take grievances very seriously and investigate thoroughly and impartially, but some can view a grievance as a precursor to litigation and view the employee as the ‘problem’. Ultimately, if a grievance is not upheld, the only legal redress you have, if you are being bullied, is to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
"You would have to show that your employer has breached your contract of employment thus entitling you to resign. This is hard to prove, and it is notable that only around 5% of these types of cases succeed at the employment tribunal.
"It is always uncertain how an employer will deal with bullying. I’ve seen a case where an employee at a large PLC was badly bullied at work and decided to make a written grievance. Her employer made her redundant, and put her on garden leave the following week. She had a ‘claim’ against her employer, but she had lost her job.
"In another case, a worker at a large public sector organisation resigned in the ‘heat of the moment’ after months of bullying and came to see me that day. The next day she retracted her notice and the employer accepted her retraction, but could easily have held her to her resignation. The employer has now moved the individual to a different building away from the bully.
"Another option to consider is finding another job and moving out of this situation. Being bullied at work is extremely tough and suing your employer is stressful and uncertain. If you decide to stay, I suggest you start to keep a diary, recording what is happening at work. If the situation is affecting your health, see your doctor and get it recorded. If you’re considering resigning or making a grievance, or if you believe you are being discriminated against, do get legal advice before taking any action.
If you have been affected by similar issues, more information and free advice is available at www.setfords.co.uk.