Bullying Advice Service FAQs

The Bullying Advice Service FAQs section aims to help individuals to further understand what constitutes as bullying or harassment. It can be difficult to identify such behaviour, especially when it’s disguised as a normal part of the job or the organisation’s culture. Some may even believe that it’s just the nature of the industry they work in. Looking for support to create mentally healthy productions for your team? Find support through the Whole Picture Toolkit.

Remember: If you have experienced or witnessed any form of physical or sexual threat, harassment, abuse or criminal activity, you must contact the police.

It is essential to recognise that such behaviour is not acceptable and can have a significant impact on one’s mental health. If you’re unsure whether you’re facing bullying at work, we recommend reviewing the definitions of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and victimisation.

Please know that you are not alone, and we are here to support you. Please fill in our form to book an appointment.

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A black and white photo of a person sat with their head in the hands whilst a colleague is comforting them with their hand on their shoulder. This is on the Bullying Advice Service FAQs section of the Film and TV Charity website.

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Bullying and harassment can also have an impact on your mental health. If you’re having issues and you’re unsure how to make sense of everything, our 24/7 Support Line is free, independent, and completely confidential. You can call us anytime on 0800 054 0000, and a member of our team can give you advice and support.

Bullying Advice Service FAQs

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If you feel you’re being treated unfairly at work, it’s important to understand what type of treatment you’re experiencing as you have different legal rights, depending on which of the following is taking place:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Victimisation

Whilst there is no legal definition of bullying, it can generally be described as unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:

  • Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting;
  • An abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone.

The bullying could be a one-off incident or follow a regular pattern of behaviour. It can happen face-to-face, on social media, in emails or calls at work or in other work-related situations. Examples of bullying could include micro-aggressions, being undermined or humiliated, unjustified criticisms of work, being ignored or excluded from work or social activities, constantly being put down or picked on, threats to job security, being set up to fail and inappropriate or offensive comments.

Being bullied can make you doubt yourself and have a long-term, negative impact on your self-confidence, wellbeing and health.

There is no specific or single law against bullying at work – it is not possible to bring a free-standing claim about bullying. However, you are not without legal protection. For example, depending on the circumstances, bullying can constitute unlawful discrimination and harassment, it can lead to unfair constructive dismissal and breach of contract or result in claims for Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and personal injury as well as breaches of health and safety requirements.

Learn about further actions you can take

Employers must do all they reasonably can to protect staff from harassment and prevent it from happening - see ACAS for more information. Harassment and discrimination are unlawful; you are protected by law regardless of your employment status or length of contract.

Under the Equality Act 2010, there are three forms of unlawful harassment:

  • General harassment involves unwanted conduct connected to a ‘protected characteristic’.
    • This can be age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
    • Harassment has the purpose or effect of either violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you.
    • Someone’s conduct can count as harassment even if they didn’t intend to harass you, they’re wrong about you having that characteristic, you did not tell them that the conduct was unwanted or if the behaviour was directed at someone else.
  • Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect.
    • Violating someone’s dignity, whether it was intended or not
    • Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, whether it was intended or not.
  • Less favourable treatment as a result of sexual harassment occurs when someone experiences less favourable treatment because of how they respond to being harassed. For example, you receive several sexual advances from your manager, but reject them. Your manager then gives you a bad performance review, which is unjustified. This could count as harassment if your poor performance review was because you rejected your manager’s advances.

TIME’S UP UK insist on safe, fair, and dignified work for everyone and provide tools and further signposting.

Discrimination can take the following forms:

  • Direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of a Protected Characteristic. For example, rejecting a job applicant because they might be gay.
  • Indirect discrimination: a provision, criterion or practice that applies to everyone but adversely affects people with a particular Protected Characteristic more than others, and is not justified. For example, requiring a job to be done full-time rather than part-time may adversely affect women because they generally have greater childcare commitments than men. Such a requirement would be discriminatory unless it can be justified.
  • Harassment: see ‘Am I being harassed?’.
  • Victimisation: retaliation against someone who has complained or has supported someone else’s complaint about discrimination.

Race discrimination: The Protected Characteristic of race includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. Examples of race discrimination could include a member of the Black and Global Majority being treated detrimentally because of a race discrimination complaint they have raised (this is victimisation), racist language being used but dismissed as “banter” (harassment), or someone not being employed because of their nationality. Almost three in five Black and Global Majority workers have experienced racial harassment discrimination in the industry.

Black Bectu network is for Global Majority people working in the creative industries to connect and articulate experiences and concerns.

Disability discrimination: includes direct and indirect discrimination, any unjustified less favourable treatment because of the effects of a disability, and failure to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate disadvantages caused by a disability. Making reasonable adjustments in relation to disability (physical or mental) is a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010 [link]. For example, recruitment processes should be set up to accommodate D/deaf and Disabled and neurodivergent talent and the working environment should be suitable – see examples of how to make reasonable adjustments.

Deaf and Disabled People in TV is an online forum for D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent people to receive peer-to-peer support.

If you experience discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 you have legal protections and access to a tribunal from day one of employment. Trade union membership provides you with free legal support – you can access information about Bectu’s legal scheme.

Absolutely – our Bullying Advice Service is free and totally confidential and calls with our Bullying Adviser are not recorded. For more information on your privacy, please see our privacy policy.

During your call with the adviser, you can share details about your experience – how, where and with whom it happened. You can talk about how it made you feel and the impact it has had on you. You may have already tried to address the situation with your employer, or you might want to explore further ways of tackling it. The advisor is there to support you and to offer advice on practical, legal, or emotional ways of dealing with your experiences.

We mention many other organisations and highlight important policies and advice throughout our Bullying Advice Service page, but here are some helpful links:

In our 2022 Looking Glass Survey, 87% of people who experienced bullying felt that it had negatively affected their mental health. Around one fifth of those experiencing bullying, racism or harassment left the job they were working on at the time and 50 % of people experiencing such behaviours considered leaving the industry.

It’s helpful to seek out support as early as possible to help prevent problems from escalating – stress isn’t itself a mental health condition but, left unchecked, it can lead to or exacerbate depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Your employer may have a Wellbeing Facilitator, an Employee Assistance Programme or other support that you can access.

If you’re at all concerned about your mental, or physical, health, you can get in touch through our 24/7 Support Line or seek medical advice.

When asked in our Looking Glass survey ‘what would help you to manage your mental wellbeing at work?’ 51% of respondents cited ‘one-to-one therapy’. Talking to someone who is trained to listen can help you make sense of your experience and the impact it has had on you.. The Film and TV Charity provides up to six counselling sessions for free, and our page your mental wellbeing lists further sources of support.

If you’re struggling to cope or feel you’ve reached crisis point you should call the Samaritans on 116 123, get in touch via email  or go to Samaritans website

ScreenSkills has created an online training module for anyone working in the screen industries who wants to develop their awareness of mental health. Find out more about their training.

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that peer support is beneficial for empowering and supporting people who may be being bullied. Benefits include a sense of shared identity, support and access to others’ knowledge and expertise. For example, The TV Mindset is a peer network set up to support the mental health of TV & Film freelancers and bring meaningful change to working practices in the industry.

Everyone has a right to work in a safe environment, free from harassment, where they can flourish and contribute their best creative work.

Although you may not be experiencing bullying directly, you might have witnessed it or be concerned about a colleague. Speaking out is hard, but we have found that people are more likely to be able to call out bullying, and harassment when they see a colleague affected. You may want to avoid causing conflict, but if nobody knows, nothing can be done about it. Bullies thrive in work when co-workers look the other way or fear that offering support will have negative repercussions. There are steps you can take to support others and to report inappropriate behaviour if your colleague consents to this.

These guides can help you react and respond if someone confides in you about being bullied or you see it happen. If you are a manager and someone has confided in you informally or made a formal report, check out our section Support for Employers.

  1. Active Listening – How to respond to someone who confides in you (whether they’re a colleague or someone you manage)
  2. Active Bystander Guide – How to intervene safely if you witness bullying taking place, and what follow-up support you can provide.

A great way of supporting someone is to make a record of the behaviour you have witnessed or have had reported to you. Let your colleague know you’d be happy to share it with your manager or employer if that would help. Even just noting the impact that the unwanted behaviour had on your colleague could potentially help.

Only half of the respondents to the Looking Glass Survey 2022 said they would report bullying, harassment or discrimination to their employer. The main reasons given were that nothing would be done, the situation would be made worse, or that they would suffer consequences in the form of loss of future work.

However, our Bullying Advice Service can help you make sense of your situation and help you decide how to navigate it. Further legal advice is accessible via our Support Line. Other organisations might also be able to support you – for example, if you belong to a union, guild, or agency:

  • If your production is BFI-funded you can report the issue to them.
  • If you are a member of Bectu you can access legal advice and representation.
  • You could approach Directors UK if one of their directors is involved, as they commit to dealing with bullying and harassment in their contracts/code of conduct.
  • Some commissioners have their own reporting service.

Bullying and the law: The UK legal position on bullying is complex as there’s no single piece of legislation which deals with workplace bullying. However, you are not without legal protection.

Everybody’s situation is different, but as a basic guide, these are the broad the steps you can consider following if you wish to seek support or take action against a bullying or harassment situation at work.

You can start by trying to address the situation informally.

Sometimes, seeking to resolve the problem by talking to the perpetrator can work – particularly if they are unaware of the negative impact they are having on you:

  • It can be helpful to prepare what you want to say to try to explain to the person who is upsetting you how their behaviour makes you feel.
  • It’s best to take a firm but non-aggressive approach.
  • If you can’t face talking to them, putting things in an e-mail may also help resolve things.

If you the situation is too serious, you don’t feel comfortable addressing the person directly, or you have already tried but the bullying continued, you can talk to someone senior at work who you trust (e.g. your boss, another manager, someone in HR).

  • Check to see if the company you work for has a Bullying and Harassment Policy (or another policy which deals with these matters) and, if so, whether it specifies who you can speak to on a production or in your company.
  • Explain what the problem is.
  • Think about how you want the situation to be resolved.
  • You can ask for the conversation to remain confidential and for the situation to be monitored. This may prevent the person you tell from being able to take any direct action, but it could help you air your concerns and explore options for moving forward.

You should be able agree together on an appropriate course of action that you feel comfortable with. This could include:

  • A manager trying to resolve the situation by talking to the people involved in private.
  • Trying to resolve the issues in a meeting with everyone involved, if everyone agrees to this.
  • Formal or informal mediation, where a third party becomes involved to try and guide the parties towards a mediation settlement or solution.

If your attempts to address the situation informally have failed, or you think it’s more appropriate to approach it formally, you have the right to pursue a grievance as an employee (if you are self-employed/freelance you may have such a right under the contractual arrangements you have in place).

  • Your employer should have a grievance policy that sets out the formal process for dealing with your grievance.  Even if they don’t, they should follow the steps in the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures which includes investigating the matter, inviting you to a grievance meeting to discuss your grievance and deciding on appropriate action (for example providing support / further training, or initiating a disciplinary process).
  • Once you raise a formal written grievance the responsibility shifts to an employer to arrange for your concerns to be addressed.
  • It is helpful for your grievance to be set out in writing, set out the factual background clearly and chronologically and identify the nature of the treatment which you have experienced.  You should ensure that your facts are correct by checking any documents such as meeting minutes and e-mails.
  • You can read advice on how to keep a record.
  • Your employer should arrange for a formal meeting to be held without unreasonable delay after a grievance is received.
  • At a grievance meeting you have the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union. Bectu supports this process as a core part of their offer to members, see more information about their legal scheme.
  • If you feel that your grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, you have the right to appeal the outcome. You should let your employer know the grounds for your appeal without unreasonable delay and in writing. Your employer should arrange for an appeal meeting to which you have the right to be accompanied, as before. The appeal should be dealt with impartially and wherever possible by someone who has not previously been involved in the case. You should be notified in writing with the outcome of your appeal. This is usually the final stage in the process.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the grievance process, you may want to find out whether you could bring a claim, including to an employment tribunal.  You can contact ACAS or seek legal advice for further information, including information about time limits for the claim and the steps you may need to undertake before you can bring a claim. For example, generally, before you are able to bring an employment tribunal claim, you must complete ACAS Early Conciliation. This is when ACAS talk to both you and the other party about your dispute. It gives you the chance to come to an agreement or settlement without having to go to tribunal. It can last for up to 6 weeks.

If it has not been possible to resolve your case or settle it, you may decide to make a legal claim.  Certain claims can be brought in an Employment Tribunal (e.g. claims for unfair dismissal, discrimination or harassment).  As employment law has become more complex it is often the case that the parties have legal representation, but this is not a requirement.

If you have to leave your employment because of severe bullying, you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal. It is helpful to seek legal advice before you resign because constructive dismissal claims can be risky and difficult to win.

Where the bullying leads to an employee developing a psychiatric injury, a claim may be brought against the employer for personal injury in the civil courts. Damages are awarded in successful claims to compensate the employee for the injury suffered. In practice, it is difficult to bring such claims in respect of workplace bullying, which are only brought where the employee has suffered a serious psychiatric injury and is likely to suffer substantial losses.

An employee suffering from bullying may also consider bringing a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in the civil courts in extreme cases. The employee will need to show that the bullying was part of a course of conduct (i.e. at least two or more incidents) which amounted to harassment under the Act, was oppressive and unacceptable and caused the employee alarm or distress.  Damages can be awarded for successful claims for any anxiety caused by the harassment as well as any injury arising and there is no cap on the damages. In practice such claims are rarely brought in respect of workplace bullying, not least because of the need to overcome the high hurdle of showing that the harassment amounted to criminal liability.

Whistleblowing is when a worker discloses a type of wrongdoing that is in the public interest. As a whistleblower, you’re protected by law from being treated detrimentally or losing your job. You can raise your concern at any time about an incident that happened in the past, is happening now, or you believe will happen in the near future. Generally, reporting wrongdoing about bullying, harassment or discrimination is usually not covered by whistleblowing law, unless your particular case is in the public interest.