Employers should take any complaints about bullying and/or harassment seriously and investigate them. Failure to do so may result in a grievance being raised, or lead to an Employment Tribunal if it's not resolved.
When a complaint about bullying and/or harassment is received, employers should first talk to the person raising the issue to understand more about the complaint, what might resolve it and to determine the next steps (eg if the person wants to deal with the issue formally or informally).
Workplace policies, including an anti-harassment and bullying policy, and/or handbooks should also be checked to determine who should handle this type of complaint and what procedure to follow.
Dealing with a complaint informally means taking steps to resolve the complaint without using a formal procedure (eg raising a grievance). In some situations, a complaint may be resolved informally by, for example, talking to the people involved. A complaint may be resolved by speaking to the parties separately, meeting with everyone involved (if everyone agrees to try this) or by offering mediation (which involves an independent, impartial person helping both sides to try to find a solution).
If a complaint cannot be resolved informally or the employer or staff member decided to escalate the issue further, a formal complaint can be made.
To make a formal complaint the formal complaints procedure (eg as set out in an anti-harassment and bullying policy or grievance procedure) should be followed and a neutral party, who is not involved in the complaint, should investigate.
While the complaint is being investigated, it may be necessary to separate staff members involved in the complaint; any changes should be handled fairly. For example, employers may temporarily move one staff member to a different location or shift. Generally, the person who made the complaint should not be moved (unless requested), as this may be seen as a punishment for complaining.
In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to suspend a staff member. However, this should be considered carefully as there may be other appropriate options.
If the outcome of the formal procedure results in disciplinary action being taken against a member of staff, employers should follow their Disciplinary procedure.