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How would you deal with workplace bullying at your GP practice?

Bullying is not illegal - but should it be? February 2019 saw a ‘Healthy Workplace Bill’ considered in 32 of America’s states, which aims to give employers the tools to eliminate bullying and provide employees with a legal lifeline by making it punishable by law.


Employers can feel their hands are tied when it comes to bullying as it often happens under the radar, with victims not always willing to come forwards or discuss the problem for fear of making the situation worse.


What does the law define as harassment? 

In the UK, stats suggest we have a larger workplace bullying problem than the US, with only 20% of Americans stating that they have been bullied in the workplace, compared to 46% in the UK. Should the UK also be looking at introducing laws to better protect our employees?

In the UK, harassment is classed as unlawful if it is connected to one of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. This means an employee can only take a complaint beyond company procedures if the harassment is related to factors including their race, gender or sexual orientation.

This has huge implications, especially if a person in a position of authority is the one doing the bullying. If their actions are not related to a protected characteristic and the company is a small business, employees can feel they have nowhere to turn – some will see leaving the organisation as their only option.


How this issue affects primary care organisations 

GP practices are not excluded from the frightening statistics discussed above. A survey compiled by Pulse show that one in six GPs have witnessed some form of bullying in their practice. This is supported by emails to the FPM HR Helpline, which often ask for advice on how to best tackle a bullying problem.

Do employers enough power to be able to deal with the problem, which can sometimes be subtle and difficult to detect and/or prove? Do the procedures you have in place give employees the confidence that their complaint will be dealt with in the correct way?

 

What are the best ways to deal with bullying in your practice? 


Being Proactive

  • Ensure all staff members are aware of what constitutes bullying, providing examples
  • Ensure staff members are aware of the possible consequences of bullying
  • Ensure a discreet opportunity is available for people being bullied to make contact, and that staff are aware of channels to do so
  • Ensure a code of conduct lives and breathes in the practice, and that this is upheld

 

Take Quick Action

  • If a bullying allegation is made, act quickly and discreetly
  • Investigate the claims thoroughly
  • Act consistently, following a Bullying and Harassment Policy such as the one in the FPM Policy Library

 

Are you dealing with a tricky HR issue? First Practice Management members can contact Sam for support via our email helpline at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.ukPlus, FPM members can access all of the policies mentioned in this article by visiting the Policies Library.

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