“I didn’t mean it, it was just a bit of fun”
These words are so often offered by way of an explanation when someone is interviewed as part of an investigation or disciplinary process.
Whether you are dealing with allegations of bullying, harassment or discrimination, it is vital you remember that the intent of the alleged perpetrator is almost always irrelevant, it is how the comments or behaviour is perceived by the ‘victim’ and / or witnesses.
How someone feels is what matters. Whether someone feels left out, singled our or treated inappropriately, in anyway, they present a risk to your business.
Whether you think there is any merit in their concerns, whether they raise them formally, informally or on behalf of someone else, you have an obligation to investigate and act appropriately based on your findings.
Don’t assume that the lack of intent by the alleged perpetrator means that bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination hasn’t occurred.
It is how the victim and / or witnesses perceive and feel about the situation which counts.
As an employer, there is an obligation on you to create and maintain a working environment which is physically and mentally safe for all your staff. Delivering regular training to create and maintain a safe and respectful working environment is essential.
Not only will training help your staff to identify and modify inappropriate behaviour, but it will go some way towards demonstrating a zero tolerance culture should you need to defend a case in the employment tribunal.