Employment news

Acas updates guidance on cyber bullying

Acas has published a revised guide to cyber bullying, reflecting the continuing rise in this form of workplace bullying.

Acas defines cyber bullying as “any form of bullying, harassment or victimisation online”, giving examples such as making offensive or threatening comments, revealing sensitive personal information or posting inappropriate photographs.

The guide also makes the important point that cyber bullying can spill from on-screen to off-screen and therefore also affect the face-to-face interactions between colleagues at work, or indeed away from the workplace.

However it happens employers are advised to deal with it quickly and effectively, as it can lead to poor morale, poor performance, lost productivity, high absence rates, unnecessary staff turnover and generally poor employment relations.

To ensure that employers are “on the case” the guide advocates having a policy that is wide enough to prohibit cyber bullying both inside and outside the workplace, that clearly states what behaviour is unacceptable and that includes guidance on when the matter becomes disciplinary.

The guide goes on to say that concerns about cyber bullying should, as with any complaint, be taken seriously and investigated promptly, using informal approaches first, if appropriate. If that’s not possible then the disciplinary process should be used.

It states that an employer can check emails and social networking sites if an employee reports instances of cyber bullying, as long as their reasons are justified under the data protection laws.

It also reminds employers who disregard this advice while it is not legally possible to make a claim solely about bullying to an Employment Tribunal, a claim may be able to be brought under discrimination law.