Keoghs Insight


Prevent bullying in the workplace

Let's Talk Shop

Whilst we anticipated a shift towards more subjective claim types following the introduction of the EL/PL Portal, we are only now starting to see more such claims being presented in the retail environment; a workplace which often employs a younger workforce and relatively high number of temporary workers, particularly around peak seasons.

Vicarious liability means that, as a retailer, you will automatically be liable for bullying and harassment caused by your employees if it is proven to have occurred. The focus for employers should therefore be to reduce the risk of such conduct in the workplace, whether it be on the shop floor or in non-customer areas.

Retailers should promote an environment in which everyone feels comfortable to work, and here we detail five key areas which can help achieve this and, in turn, reduce the number of claims arising from bullying/harassment.

Provide a forum

  • Hold regular meetings with employees and implement a documented appraisal system. This will give employees a regular opportunity to raise issues. Early action can then be taken as appropriate.


  • Keep an eye on absence patterns, return to work interviews and grievances. This can help early identification of potentially concerning behaviour, providing the opportunity to nip the issue in the bud

Reduce the likelihood

  • Undertake a specific bullying and harassment risk assessment
  • Introduce a policy which sets out;
  • how others should be treated
  • what disciplinary action may be taken if an employee is found in breach of the policy

Educate your workforce ensuring;

  • All employees have received and read the stress, bullying/harassment and grievance policies and that their training record reflects this
  • Employees are knowledgeable in recognising signs that such behaviour is occuring
  • Relevant employees are trained to act in accordance with the policies as and when issues arise
  • Appropriate action is taken to comply with the policies.

Promote an open culture

  • Make it known that it is OK for employees to approach management with any concerns, whether it be stress, bullying or harassment. This will help ensure that, if the behaviour is not obvious, you can act before it manifests.


Defining Behaviour: What is Bullying and Harassment? 


Put simply bullying is unwelcome and unwarranted behaviour which has a detrimental effect on the complainant.

Examples are:

  • misuse of power
  • offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour
  • lack of support


Harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as unwanted conduct relating to relevant protected characteristics, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Examples of protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment, sex or sexual orientation
  • race, religion or belief