Bullying in the Workplace

When the phrase ‘bullying in schools’ is mentioned most people automatically assume it is being used in reference to students bullying students or abusing teachers. However, something that is scarcely talked about is a bullying/harassment culture between members of staff. Of course, this is a rare occurrence across most schools. Nevertheless, it does exist. 

When Kent-Teach conducted a survey on teacher retention, we were surprised by what was revealed.  For Question 5, which centred around the reason that most heavily influenced teachers’ decisions to leave their role, the responses in the ‘Other’ answer selection were largely related to bullying. Your initial thought may be to think yes, the management of student bullying is very challenging. However, most of the answers related to bullying referred to teacher bullying or leadership bullying. Answers given that were related to bullying or mistreatment of either students or teachers totalled 23, which was the third highest answer for Question 5.

What is Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

According to workplace relationship experts, Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service):

Bullying is behaviour from a person or group that's unwanted and makes someone feel uncomfortable.”

Harassment is when bullying or unwanted behaviour is related to any of the following (known as 'protected characteristics' under the Equality Act 2010):

• Age

• Disability

• Gender reassignment

• Pregnancy and maternity (which have special protections in law)

• Race

• Religion or belief

• Sex

• Sexual orientation”

Where Can Teaching Staff Find Support?

• Education Unions

All the trade unions for teachers, school leaders and support staff offer guidance and support on workplace bullying

• Acas – www.acas.org.uk/discrimination-bullying-and-harassment

Freephone helpline – 0300 123 1100

• UK Government – www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment

• Citizens Advice


• Education Support  - Confidential and free helpline for everyone working in education – 08000 562 561

Workplace Bullying and the Law

The Equality Act 2010 

• The Employment Rights Act 1996 

• Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

• The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Bullying and harassment are often continuous, rather than a onetime event. In the case of an isolated even, you might feel able to shrug it off after the initial feeling and move on. However, continuously experiencing this, and the resulting negative feelings, present a much bigger problem. If every day you anticipate being treated in this way, you are most likely going to spend the evening before worrying, struggling to sleep and dreading coming into work.

If this does continue over a long period of time this could lead to depression, anxiety, feeling isolated and certainly insomnia from worrying the night before. This could, in turn, worsen your work performance which would then enhance these emotions.

What to Do if You are Being Bullied or Harassed

• Start to keep a record of who bullied you, when and how. If you are considering taking formal action under the “Raising a grievance policy”, keeping a record will prove extremely useful when presenting your evidence. 

• If the bullying is occurring over email, make sure you keep the email and even take screenshots of the emails and store them privately. 

• If there is no written record and no witness willing to back you up, you could begin to record the abuse with your phone or a recording device.

If this does not provide you with the result you were looking for, you could take legal action through an employment tribunal. For an employment tribunal you must go through Acas. Their website states, “If you want to make a claim to an employment tribunal, you must tell Acas first. You'll be offered the option of 'early conciliation'. This free service can help you and your employer resolve the issue before you need to make a claim. Making a claim to a tribunal can be time consuming and difficult for everyone involved.” As Acas states, this process can be very difficult, so it is important you take everything into consideration before you begin this process.

Of course, the final option other than changing your job or school is to try and negotiate working different hours to avoid the person (or persons) who are bullying you. Of course, this is far from ideal and it would be far more preferable for the perpetrators to change their behaviour rather than you needing to change your life around them.

If you are concerned about wellbeing in your school and are keen to implement a successful Wellbeing Programme, be sure to reach out to our Wellbeing Advisors by emailing kent.teach@cantium.solutions or visit our dedicated Wellbeing webpage

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