Dignity At Work Act

  1. Dignity At Work – what is it?
  2. Dignity At Work – why?
  3. Dignity At Work – Legal Issues
  4. Unfair Dismissal claims
  5. Discrimination
  6. Discrimination ­ the employer’s duty
  7. Stress Claims
  8. Protection from Harassment Act
  9. Dignity At Work – In Practice (1)

Dignity At Work – what is it?

Q. What is “Dignity at Work”?
A. An environment that does not permit

  • Bullying;
  • Harassment; or
  • Offensive behaviour

and actively fosters tolerance and respect.


  • Intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient
  • An abuse or misuse of power


  • Unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace
  • May be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or any personal characteristic of the individual
  • May be persistent or an isolated incident
  • Actions or comments viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient
  • Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour

Examples of unacceptable behavior (esp. on discriminatory grounds)

  • Spreading malicious rumours, insulting someone
  • Ridiculing, undermining or demeaning someone
  • Unfair treatment
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Preventing individuals progressing
  • Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • Making threats about job security without foundation
  • Exclusion or victimisation

The fact the recipient partakes is not a defence.


  • Although not a necessary element, discrimination is often an aggravating factor.
  • Discrimination on the following grounds is unlawful:
    • Sex
    • Gender reassignment
    • Being married or in a civil partnership
    • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
    • Race (including ethnic or national origin, nationality and colour)
    • Disability
    • Sexual orientation
    • Religion or belief
    • Age
  • Direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation

Dignity At Work – why?

The costs to the Company of failure:

Hidden costs

  • Retention rates
  • Reputational damage
  • Productivity
  • Management time dealing with disputes/grievances

National Workplace Bullying Survey

  • 85% of respondents said it affected their confidence
  • 60% said it affected the quality of their work
  • 51% said it caused them to take time off

The costs to the Company of failure:

Direct costs
Resignations and potential claims:

  • Unfair/constructive dismissal
  • Discrimination
  • Stress/personal injury claims Management time dealing with disputes/grievances National Workplace Bullying Survey
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Very high legal costs with little prospect of recovery
The potential award:

  1. Loss of earnings
  2. Injury to feelings (see next slide)
  3. Pain, suffering and loss of amenity
  4. Aggravated and exemplary damages
  5. Litigation costs

The individual employee that commits the alleged act of discrimination is very likely to be named personally as a Respondent

Discrimination claims

In addition to loss of earnings and other damages:

  • In the lower band, which is intended for less serious cases such as those which relate to a single incident, the maximum award that should be given is £6,000
  • In the middle band, which should be applied in serious cases which are not severe enough for the highest band, the highest level of award is £18,000
  • The upper band, which should be used in the most serious cases, particularly if there has been a lengthy campaign of discrimination, is £30,000

Discrimination laws cover all areas of employment including:

  • Job adverts and the recruitment process
  • Terms and conditions of work
  • Conduct during employment and social events at work
  • Dismissal and any work-related matters arising after employment has ended e.g. references

The law protects, among others:

  • Agency workers
  • Freelance workers and consultants
  • Directors and employees

Unfair Dismissal claims

Gab Robbins (UK) Ltd v Triggs

  • T bullied by manager (B) and over-worked and raised grievance
  • Co. ignored over-work, suggested meeting with B
  • T resigned
  • Decision acts complained of amounted to a cumulative breach; failure to investigate grievance was final straw

Royal Bank of Scotland plc v McAdie

  • M complained of bullying, went off work with stress
  • Off work for >1 year, said she was unable to return
  • RBS dismissed her
  • Decision fact that RBS caused the ill-health meant it had to ‘go the extra mile’ before dismissal


Miles v Gilbank

  • G worked at a hairdressers owed by M
  • G and M had good working relationship until M became pregnant
  • G then subjected her to an “inhumane and sustained campaign of bullying and discrimination
  • E.g. M wouldn’t block time out of diary when G thought she’d had a miscarriage and needed to go to hospital
  • G told to juggle her clients’ appointments
  • G received the (then) maximum injury to feelings award (£25,000)

Discrimination ­ the employer’s duty

Gravell v London Borough of Bexley

  • G worked as a housing officer
  • Was told it was LBB’s policy to ignore racist comments from customers
  • But had to listen to such comments
  • Also sent racist jokes by colleague
  • Decision – G could, in principle, bring harassment claim against LBB
  • LBB’s policy of not challenging racist behaviour by customers had the effect of creating an offensive environment

Stress Claims

Daw v Intel Corporation (UK) Ltd

  • D worked excessive hours / had unclear reporting lines
  • Had had two known periods of post-natal depression
  • Manager found her in tears at her desk in March ’01
  • D set out her concerns in writing
  • Options discussed incl. hiring extra perm. employee
  • D. discouraged from moving jobs
  • D. Signed off sick from 15 June 01
  • Attempted suicide following day
  • Intel held liable for breakdown (C of A)

Protection from Harassment Act

Miles v Gilbank

  • Green was bullied by 4 female colleagues, who –
  • Pointedly ignored her or stared at her
  • Excluded her from conversations, lunches etc
  • Made crude/lewd comments about her
  • Removed her name from circulation lists
  • Hid her post, then gave her a week’s worth on Fridays
  • Also bullied by a male manager & male colleague (P.) ­
  • Both were abrasive / aggressive
  • She was given work at the last minute
  • P. passed off work as his own and take Green’s work
  • He gave clients the impression he was Green’s boss
  • Following a holiday Green unable to return to work
  • She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and placed on suicide watch
  • Returned to work around 6 months later
  • Following her return to work, she suffered a further breakdown
  • Decision: DB liable for both Green’s breakdowns ­
  • Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • The behaviours amounted to harassment & were closely connected to employment
  • In negligence
  • DB had failed to take adequate steps to protect Green from the behaviour

Dignity At Work – In Practice (1)


  • Policy on bullying/harassment and dignity at work
  • Equal opportunities policy
  • Confidentiality for any complainant
  • Statement that bullying and harassment may be treated as disciplinary offences
  • Implementation of policies to be reviewed and monitored
  • Protection from victimisation
  • Training for managers
  • Counselling

Day to day

  • Commitment from management
  • Abiding by the policies
  • Learning from the training
  • Effective management
  • Setting standards
  • Not tolerating unacceptable behaviour
  • Implementing change
  • Using the disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • Tolerance and respect

This publication is intended for general summary guidance. It is not and should not be considered legal advice. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases; we cannot be held responsible for any action (or decision not to take action) made in reliance upon the content of this publication.