Labour Research (September 2016)

Law Queries


Q. How can employers help prevent cyberbullying by co-workers?

A crucial step employers can take is to have appropriate policies addressing cyberbullying. For example, equal opportunities and anti-bullying policies, as well as a social media policy.

Employment relations service Acas strongly recommends that trade union reps make sure employers’ social media policies cross-refer to their bullying and harassment policy.

Sometimes cyberbullying takes place by colleagues outside of work. The TUC suggests that employers should put together an agreed conduct policy with employee reps and set out clear standards of conduct expected outside of work. This could include conduct online and on social media. 

Where cyberbullying cannot be resolved informally, an employer may choose to commence a disciplinary process against the perpetrator. This could result in a disciplinary sanction, such as a written warning, or even dismissal.

Cyberbullying may give rise to various offences which could be reported to the police. For example, depending on the nature of the cyberbullying, the perpetrator may have committed offences under the Malicious Communications Act 1998 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1977.

There may also be discrimination issues if the cyberbullying relates to any of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. For example, sex, race, religion or belief, disability and sexual orientation. This may give rise to a successful claim against the employer (as well as the perpetrator), depending on what steps the employer took to prevent the cyberbullying.

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