10 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Bullying, Discrimination, Vegan   |  1 Comments

We were having one of our regular in-house training sessions on Wednesday and got into a discussion about bullying and harassment in the workplace. Whether as a result of the #metoo campaign or not, we are seeing a significant increase in accusations and employers are having to spend more and more time investigating claims, obtaining evidence and potentially bringing disciplinary action.

As with many of our training sessions, we explore a number of what-if scenarios and this week we got onto the topic of Veganuary. For those of you who don’t know, this is a drive to encourage people to try Veganism in the month of January. There are many reasons why people will or won’t become Vegan and these are usually personal, but what happens when those beliefs start to impact the workplace?

What happens if the pizzas you order on Friday are not suitable for Vegans or the chocolates you bring in to share, or the sandwiches for that lunch meeting? If you continue to exclude Vegans from the food options are you discriminating against them? Could they feel bullied or victimised or excluded by your behaviour, especially if you (or someone in the team) knowingly repeats the behaviour.

The answer is potentially, yes!

As an employer, you have a duty of care to all your staff and need to ensure that all staff feel included and catered for, in this case quite literally.

While doing some research around Veganuary, we also came across PeTA’s guidelines for non-offensive phrases. You are now encouraged to watch your language as well as what you serve to vegans (and I assume vegetarians). You are no longer ‘bringing home the bacon’, but ‘bringing home the bagels’, you are no longer ‘killing two birds with one stone’ but ‘feeding two birds with one scone’. You get the idea. If you want more animal-friendly idioms, they can be found here.

While we may jest at these attempts to protect animals, as employers we must be aware that people with certain beliefs can easily become the victims of thoughtlessness, bullying and lack of understanding. As the employer, your beliefs are not relevant, it is the perception of the employee which must be considered. “Political correctness gone mad” my father would say, but the reality of today’s workplace is that people want to be respected for their diverse views and whether it is Veganism or anything else, as the employer, you and your staff must respect other people’s views and failure to do so may well lead to allegations, grievances, disciplinaries and ultimately, potentially, employment tribunals.

Having a clear, legally compliant policy is essential (often a code of conduct) and ensuring that all staff are adequately trained is a vitally important element of creating a respectful, productive and successful workplace.

Bullying & Harassment

06 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bullying, Discrimination, employee rights, Equality Bill, Health and Safety, Video, Vlog, Wellness   |  No Comments


Employers are obliged to protect staff from bullying and harassment. Generally, this is in terms of discrimination, but may include anything from their favourite football team, what a person wears, their hobbies or their mannerisms.

Employers are obliged to ensure that the work environment is mentally safe for everyone and therefore free from bullying and harassment.

Prevention is better than cure and employers can be held vicariously liable if they don’t take adequate steps to prevent bullying and/or harassment taking place.

Bullying is prevalent in UK workplaces… and it’s on the rise

19 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bullying, Discrimination, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination   |  No Comments

It’s National Anti-Bullying Week, and shockingly, Acas have reported that over the past year they received around 20,000 calls about harassment and bullying at work.

Some callers even reported that workplace bullying caused them to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying is defined as any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It’s not necessarily always apparent to others, and may be happening in the workplace without your awareness.

Recently published results of the largest ever survey (with 24,000 responses) regarding attitudes towards race in the workplace, contained some particularly troubling findings…

According to the Race at Work report from Business in the Community (BITC), racial harassment and bullying in the workplace is prevalent.

The report found 3 out of 10 employees in the UK had witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the workplace in the last year alone, a disappointing increase on previous years.

Only 55% of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers said they felt like a valued member of their team, compared to 71% of white employees.

Despite this, 65% of BAME staff said they enjoy working for their organisation, compared to 61% of white employees. Additionally, 64% of BAME employees said they’re keen to progress in the workplace, whereas for white employees the number was a mere 41%.

Sandra Kerr, race equality director at BITC stated:

“Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action.”

This report raises some major issues that employers absolutely must address.

But workplace bullying isn’t limited to racism.

Results of another study have been released this week, revealing that workplace bullying is a growing problem in Britain and many people are simply too afraid to speak up about it.

People don’t always feel confident enough to complain, particularly if the harasser is a manager or senior member of staff. Sometimes, they’ll quite simply resign.

It’s therefore very important for employers to ensure that staff are fully aware of the options available to them when it comes to bullying or harassment, and that these of course remain confidential.

These findings provide some real eye-opening truths on the current state of bullying in the workplace, and it’s vital that employers reflect on these results and have a good look at their working environment.

Start taking action today to ensure that your business is fully implementing anti-bullying policies and utilising managers with good people management skills. Here are some recommendations for taking action:

  • Promote training and awareness of bullying in the workplace (there are more incidences of bullying within minority ethnic groups; women in male-dominated workplaces; those with disabilities or long-term health problems; LGBT people; and those working in health care)
  • All people managers to have mandatory training to deal with bullying and harassment (inexperienced employers feel they lack the skills to go through complex grievance and disciplinary procedures that bullying allegations may involve)
  • Managers at every level to have objectives around ensuring harmony and inclusion in their teams (managers alerted to bullying allegations may favour simply moving staff around rather than investigating and dealing with underlying behaviours)
  • Senior leaders to recognise that harassment and bullying exists and take action to erase it from the workplace
  • Employers to review succession planning lists to ensure the inclusion of diverse talent from all walks of life
  • Ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place (barriers to people making complaints to do something about unwanted behaviour might make the situation worse)

You may not be aware of any bullying or harassment in your workplace, but according to these recent results, the chances are there may be something going on.

Bullying is the enemy of diversity and consequently, business performance and profits.

By not challenging unacceptable behaviour and not effectively implementing your Anti-Bullying Policy, you put your diverse culture at risk, and ultimately, your business itself.

You can make a difference.

Commit to speaking out.

If you witness behaviour that you consider to be bullying or harassment, take action. If you hear someone in the office use unacceptable language, challenge it.

Let’s prevent these numbers from rising any further, instead, we can take action and decrease them.

If you’re interested any further advice regarding this sensitive issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us

And if you’d like to have a listen of my recent interview where I discuss my thoughts on this subject, you can do so by clicking this link!