What is bullying? 

Bullying is not defined in UK  law.  Generally, bullying involves the exercise of power over another person through negative acts or behaviours that undermine them personally and/or professionally.  Bullying can be threatening, insulting, abusive, disparaging or intimidating behaviour; placing inappropriate pressure on the recipient which can affect self-confidence or has the effect of isolating or excluding them. 

Bullying  involves behaviour that is unacceptable to the recipient and creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for work, study or related social activities. 

Bullying may consist of a single incident, sporadic events or a continuing process.  Behaviour that may appear trivial as a single incident can constitute bullying when repeated. 

Bullying is not always deliberate; someone may demonstrate bullying behaviour without intending to.  Whichever form it takes it will often cause embarrassment, fear, humiliation or distress to an individual or group of individuals. 

Bullying may be by an individual against another individual, perhaps by someone in a position of authority.  Similarly, a group of people may also be responsible for bullying behaviour towards an individual.  People in positions of authority can be bullied by those who are not.  

Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.  Non-verbal conduct includes postings on social media.
Legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of performance or behaviour, or reasonable instructions do not amount to bullying on their own.
Please see our Dignity and Respect Policy and visit our website pages  for further information. 

Are you protected from bullying by the law? 

Bullying itself is not against the law, but if a colleague, fellow student or staff member is behaving in an intimidating or offensive way, it could be harassment, which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010. 

Harassment under the Equality Act 2010 

Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted behaviour which makes a person feel offended, intimidated or humiliated.  It is unlawful (in civil law) if it occurs because of, or connected to, one or more of the following protected characteristics: 
  • Age 
  • Disability 
  • Gender reassignment 
  • Race 
  • Religion or belief 
  • Sex  
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Marriage and civil partnership 
  • Pregnancy and maternity 

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