What should I do if I am being bullied by SLT?

Overview

You may feel like you are being bullied by SLT, your head of department or headteacher. All teachers have the right to work in a safe and secure environment free from intimidation, harassment and fear and where they feel valued and respected.

If your colleagues behave in an offensive or intimidating way towards you, it could be unlawful harassment under the Equality Act. To find out more about the Equality Act please see our article on the topic.

Your school may have a policy which outlines the steps you can take if you feel like you are being bullied or harassed. This article looks at what constitutes as bullying and harassment and includes practical steps which you can take to tackle the issue.

What does bullying look like?

It is important to be able to identify when you are being bullied at your school instead of when someone simply be difficult to work with. Examples of bullying by colleagues can include:

  • Allocating unnecessary and disproportionate additional workload to you
  • Withholding responsibility of school-related work
  • Changing objectives unreasonably
  • Imposing impractical deadlines
  • Abuse and criticism in front of colleagues and pupils
  • Excessive amounts of lesson observations
  • Unjustified invoking of disciplinary or capability procedures

There is no ‘catch all’ definition of bullying, however, if you feel like someone’s behaviour is having a detrimental impact on your performance, health, or well-being you will need to look at solutions of how to tackle it.

What does harassment look like?

Harassment can be a one-off incident, for example, if a colleague makes a racist comment to you in front of other members of staff. It can also be a series of incidents or bullying which takes place over time. It can happen in and outside of school. Harassment can take many forms. These include:

  • Non-verbal abuse such as offensive gestures and body language
  • Inappropriate comments about someone’s appearance
  • Intrusive questioning about someone’s private life
  • Verbal abuse such as suggestive remarks, jokes and name calling
  • Physical contact such as unnecessary touching
  • Unwanted sexual advances and comments
  • Threatened or actual physical abuse or attack
  • Racist or homophobic comments or jokes
  • Humiliating behaviour

Is there a difference between bullying and harassment?

Yes. Bullying doesn’t have a legal definition in the Equality Act. Harassment is included in the Act and relates to a person’s protected characteristics.

Bullying can be defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient (emotionally or physically) – but it doesn’t have a legal definition in the Equality Act. In fact bullying behaviour is very similar to harassment, but it is not related to a protected characteristic.

Bullied by SLT: what practical steps can I take?

Read through and understand your school’s harassment or bullying policy, this will outline how issues can be resolved internally. Where possible, you will want to keep detailed notes of the incidents, including dates and times and what has been said and done to you.

If possible, you can try to ask the alleged bully to stop his or her behaviour. You can point out the detrimental effect their behaviour is having on you. You could do this either face-to-face or in writing. You will want to keep a note of the outcome of any discussions. It is also important to note that misunderstandings between colleagues do sometimes occur which can lead to a perception that bullying is taking place.

You can speak to us or a trusted colleague at school so you don’t suffer alone.

If you cannot face speaking to the alleged bully yourself, you can ask a colleague to do so on your behalf.

Bullied by SLT: what are my employment rights if I feel like I am being harassed?

If you are being harassed it will likely amount to a breach of your contract of employment and health and safety laws. Harassment that is related to a protected characteristic is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act. Protected characteristics include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Taking further action

If the harassment doesn’t stop or your school doesn’t take your complaint seriously, you should make a formal complaint or raise a grievance.

We have published another article which looks at how you can raise a grievance in school.

If you’re problem isn’t resolved, you can also make a harassment claim in the employment tribunal under the Equality Act. You need to make sure:

  • The behaviour counts as unlawful harassment under the Act
  • You’re within the three months’ time limit for making your claim

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.