Skip to main content

Raab case should spark boardroom debate on workplace bullying, says Merseyside employment lawyer

The resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should encourage business owners to find a clear understanding of workplace bullying.

In employment law, an employee cannot bring a claim to an employment tribunal simply for ‘bullying’– instead they must claim for a recognised complaint such as unlawful discrimination, harassment or constructive dismissal.

While many of the allegations against Mr Raab were found not to be proven, the inquiry upheld two complaints, prompting his resignation. Subsequent statements have since raised a debate over what constitutes bullying and the importance of finding a balance between reasonable management behaviour and the rights of staff to be treated respectfully.

Charles Millett, employment law partner at Morecrofts Solicitors, says this should prove to be a watershed moment for many businesses to answer the question of precisely what amounts to workplace bullying.

He said:

“The implications of the Dominic Raab enquiry will echo through the corridors and boardrooms of businesses across the UK, asking at what point strong management and upholding standards crosses the line into oppressive behaviour. A balance must be struck between allowing managers to manage and ensuring individuals are not spoken to in a way that is humiliating.

“It is often the case that one person’s perception of bullying is another person’s perception of firm and efficient management. This appeared to be at the heart of the Raab enquiry, which has raised concerns over how ministers can ensure important work is done without being accused of bullying by their staff members.

“TV shows such as The Apprentice or Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares may have skewed the perception of how highly successful managers should behave and a ‘you’re fired’ culture should certainly not prevail in a modern workplace in this day and age. Employees should be treated as individuals, each with different ways of working, different strengths and weaknesses and what might motivate one person might demoralise another.

“There can never be a perfect solution to this issue, but companies should debate and understand where the boundaries are. There will always be employees who reel at any mild criticism and there are still many managers out there who think it acceptable to berate, humiliate or demoralise staff members. If the Raab case promotes this debate and creates a clearer picture for all, than that can only be a positive outcome.”

Morecrofts Solicitors has offices in six locations across Merseyside.