Advice on bullying and harassment

Many people have approached us asking about what they should do if they experience bullying or harassment, sexual or otherwise, whilst at work on site or in the office.

The Equality and Diversity Group are unable to take any action on your behalf but are happy to offer advice on your next steps and options. We are also able to offer support to those experiencing these types of behaviours as you move forward.

Your rights

The law is very clear on the obligations of both employers and individuals with regards to your rights.

Prospect states:

‘All employees have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, in a working environment free from discrimination and harassment. Actions or behaviour which interfere with that right, and which are unwanted and offensive to the recipient, can be construed as harassment. It is important to keep sight of this, since behaviour which is acceptable to one person may be offensive to another. Whether or not harassment is intentional, it is its effect upon the recipient which is important.’

GOV.UK defines bullying and harassment as:

‘Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.’ (hereafter referred to as the 2010 Act)

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours;
  • unfair treatment;
  • picking on someone;
  • regularly undermining a competent worker; and
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities.

Bullying and harassment can happen:

  • face-to-face;
  • by letter;
  • by email;
  • by phone; or
  • over social media.

Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

Click here to find the on bullying and harassment at work booklet by Acas for employees

Employers’ responsibilities

Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment – they’re liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.

Anti-bullying and harassment policies can help prevent problems. Acas has produced a booklet for employers, including advice on setting up a policy as well as how to recognise, deal with and prevent bullying and harassment.

Click here to find the booklet by Acas for employers.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers must provide a safe and healthy working environment.

Under the law, employers are also liable for acts of harassment carried out by third parties – i.e. members of the public, customers or clients or anyone else the employee comes into contact with in the course of their work. However, this will only arise if incidents of harassment have been reported to the employer on at least two other occasions and the employer has failed to take appropriate action to stop the harassment occurring.

What should you do?

If you are experiencing either bullying or harassment there are several step you can take in the first instance.


It is advisable for the employee to keep a diary of all incidents (including what was said and by whom, witnesses to the conduct, dates and time etc).  This is particularly important where the conduct is not overt but more subtle. It might be easier to establish the harassment by proving a pattern of behaviour. Also, any evidence that the behaviour towards the employee is connected to a protected characteristic under the 2010 Act would be very useful, for example if the employee can show examples of other employees who do not have a connection to the protected characteristic not being subjected to the same conduct.

Informal action

It may seem daunting but sometimes talking to the perpetrator can resolve an issue as they may not realise the effect of his or her behaviour and confronting them may resolve the matter quickly.

You may also want to speak to your line manager or Human Resources (HR) manager about what you are experiencing informally and see if they are able to resolve the issue for you in a less formal manner with the perpetrator.

Formal Action

Formal action can be taken through your employers grievance procedures and through their anti-bullying and harassment policies.

Click this link for an example of grievance procedures as offered by the University of Manchester. 

These policies and procedures will vary from company to company, but all employers should have a robust system and policies in place to deal with these types of proceedings. Often you will be able to take this type of action through your Line Manager, HR officer, or with the assistance of your Union representative.

What if nothing happens?

Sadly, we have heard of experiences where attempts at formal action have been unsuccessful for various reasons and it is clear that the employer has failed to achieve their legal responsibility with regards to bullying and harassment.

So what should you do?


In the first instance you should consider whether the harassment is of such a form that it can be reported to the police. This may seem an extreme step, but you should remember that your rights in these matters are protected under law both from individuals perpetrating this behaviour and organisations.

The easiest way to do this is to use a self reporting form 

Harassment is both a criminal offence and a civil action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This means that someone can be prosecuted in the criminal courts if they harass you. It also means you can take action against the person in the civil courts.

Additionally, the 2010 Act makes it a criminal offence if any bullying or harassment is related to the protected characteristics mentioned above.

There are several types of unlawful harassment defined under the 2010 Act.

  • The first type of harassment involves unwanted conduct related to one of the defined protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation), which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an offensive, degrading, humiliating, intimidating or hostile environment for him/her. This form of harassment is unlawful only if the conduct could be reasonably considered as having that effect on the complainant.
  • The second type is sexual harassment which is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature where this has the same purpose or effect as the second type of harassment.
  • The third type is treating someone less favourably because they have either submitted to or rejected sexual harassment, or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.

If you wish to take this step you can find out more from:

Citizens Advice or True Vision

Or contact your local police department.

Remember they have a legal responsibility to take you seriously or the officer responding to you claim could be help accountable for allowing a crime to be perpetrated.


What can CIfA do for you?

CIfA have sections in both their Policy Statements and Codes of Conduct which relate to acceptable behaviours for professional archaeologists, bulling, and harassment.

Extract from CIfA Policy statements:


Equal opportunities is an issue integral to every aspect of archaeological work. It is an aspect of human resource management concerned with the provision of equal access in staff recruitment, selection, training, promotion and retention, and equal opportunity for a positive work experience and environment. While structural inequalities are not specific to archaeological practice, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists takes responsibility for formulating policy on archaeological standards, and thus equity issues are implicit in its Code of conduct.

1.1 The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists is committed to a policy of equal opportunities in archaeology, and its implementation through a programme of positive action.

1.2 This policy aims to heighten awareness of equity issues amongst the membership of the Institute, and to encourage employers to adopt guidelines ensuring that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment or access to opportunities for training and development on the grounds of age, gender, marital status, disability, race, religious belief, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, or any other grounds not relevant to employment practice.

1.3 The Institute will observe this policy in relation to its own employees, and will consider the policy applicable to its membership. According to the Institute’s Code of conduct, all members must practice ethical and responsible behaviour in archaeological affairs (Principle 1), and in dealing with employees and colleagues (Principle 5). Appropriate professional conduct includes refraining from discrimination and harassment. Such behaviour may lead to allegations of improper conduct requiring an investigation conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Institute’s Disciplinary regulations.

1.4 The Institute is committed to equality of opportunity for representation on its committees, working parties and Council, and in the validation process leading to membership.

1.5 The Institute will observe a policy of non-discriminatory language in its by-laws, administration, publications, presentations, and annual conference. 1.6 Through its Professional Development and Practice Committee the Institute is committed to a programme of positive action to make this policy fully effective.


1.1 The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists recognises its individual members’ responsibilities as regards Health and Safety. This is reinforced in the note on Rule 5.2 of the Code of conduct, as ratified and adopted as a by-law by Annual General Meeting in 1985. Responsibilities are further defined in individual Standard and guidance documents.

1.2 It is recognised that all archaeological work should be undertaken in accordance with current Health and Safety legislation. CIfA accepts that both employing/organising bodies and individual employees/workers have a duty of care to those working for them, to each other, and to the general public. Archaeologists’ attention is therefore drawn to the Health and Safety Executive’s publication Successful Health and Safety Management HS(G)65, which points out the need for all employers, regardless of the size of the organisation, to have in place an effective Health and Safety policy.

1.3 CIfA will treat any complaint against a member regarding non-fulfilment of Health and Safety obligations as a breach of the Code of conduct, and will act accordingly.

Extract from CIfA Codes of conduct:


A member shall adhere to high standards of ethical and responsible behaviour in the conduct of archaeological affairs.


  • A member shall conduct himself or herself in a manner which will not bring archaeology or the Institute into disrepute.

1.5 A member shall give appropriate credit for work done by others, and shall not commit plagiarism in oral or written communication, and shall not enter into conduct that might unjustifiably injure the reputation of another archaeologist.

1.6 A member shall know and comply with all laws applicable to his or her archaeological activities whether as employer or employee, and where appropriate with national and international treaties, conventions and charters including annexes and schedules.   

1.12 A member has a duty to ensure that this Code is observed throughout the membership of the Institute, and to encourage its adoption by others. A member’s duty to ensure that the Code of conduct is observed includes providing information in response to a request from the Chair or his/her nominee, and/or giving evidence to such panels and hearings as may be established for the purposes of investigating an alleged breach of the Institute’s by‐laws. This requirement is without prejudice to the provisions of Rule 1.10 regarding confidential information.  A member shall ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, that all work for which he/she is directly or indirectly responsible by virtue of his/her position in the organisation undertaking the work, is carried out in accordance with this Code.


The member shall recognise the aspirations of employees, colleagues and helpers with regard to all matters relating to employment, including career development, health and safety, terms and conditions of employment and equality of opportunity. Code of conduct Last updated 15‐Dec‐2014 Chartered Institute for Archaeologists


5.1 A member shall give due regard to the requirements of employment legislation relating to employees, colleagues or helpers.  

5.2 A member shall give due regard to the requirements of health and safety legislation relating to employees or to other persons potentially affected by his or her archaeological activities.

5.3 A member shall give due regard to the requirements of legislation relating to employment discrimination on grounds of race, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief.

5.4 A member shall ensure that adequate insurance cover is maintained for persons or property which may be affected by his or her archaeological activities.

5.5 A member shall give due regard to the welfare of employees, colleagues and helpers in relation to terms and conditions of service. He or she shall give reasonable consideration to any CIfA recommendations on pay and conditions of employment, and should endeavor to meet or exceed the CIfA recommended salary minima.

5.6 A member shall give reasonable consideration to cumulative service and proven experience of employees, colleagues or helpers when deciding rates of remuneration and other employment benefits, such as leave.

5.7 A member shall have due regard to the rights of individuals who wish to join or belong to a trade union, professional or trade association.

5.8 A member shall give due regard and appropriate support to the training and development of employees, colleagues or helpers to enable them to execute their duties.

Whilst the legal action which CIfA can take on your behalf is limited it is worth reporting incidents of harassment or bullying perpetrated by an individual as these may form the basis of any action CIfA may wish to take against that individual.

CIfA can also take action against Registered Organisations (ROs) if they fail to meet their obligations either under CIfA regulations or the law.

Contact CIfA at:

It should be noted that no action can be taken by CIfA if the person or organisation has not signed up to abide by their Codes of Conduct. If this is the case, please seek aid from either your union or the police.

Prospect and other unions

If other workplace recourse have failed to yield results you may wish to contact your union representative. Most commonly this would be your Prospect rep.

Click here to go to the Prospect website. 

If you are a member of the union they will be able to assist you any action you wish to take either against individual perpetrators or organisations who may not be treating you as you would wish or they are required to.

The prospect leaflet on bullying and harassment can be found by clicking on this link. 

The Unison guide for talking bullying at work can be found by clicking this link. 

The following is an extract from Prospects advice on bullying at work:

Action for representatives

5.1 When Prospect representatives deal with cases of harassment it is important to ensure that all allegations of harassment are taken seriously, and that the person suffering harassment does not believe the union is siding with the harasser. Do not jump to a conclusion about whether or not there is a case.

5.2 Support the member and assure them of confidentiality. Remember that harassment can be extremely distressing so it may be difficult or embarrassing for them to seek advice. They may feel they will not be believed or that the issue will be trivialised. Colleagues may accuse them of not being able to take a joke or of upsetting an otherwise ‘harmonious’ atmosphere.

5.3 Encourage but don’t force the member to take action.

5.4 Representatives should offer support and guidance if the member wishes to take informal action. They may wish you to accompany them to confront the harasser and ask them to stop the offensive behaviour. Alternatively, you could offer to help them write to the harasser, outlining the behaviour which caused offence and stating that it must not happen again. advice to members

5.5 When advising members, representatives should:

■ keep copies of all correspondence

■ give clear advice

■ ask the member to keep a record of any incident

■ explain the options open to members, the procedures for making a complaint and their rights.


Remember you are not alone, you can and should speak out about these behaviours. You can contact us through Twitter or Facebook, or through e-mail at

Or talk to anyone you feel comfortable with online or in person.

Never feel that you are ‘over-reacting’ and never accept that nothing can be done, action can and should be taken by your employer, representative, or the police.

If you feel you need further support or wish to offer further support from a mental health standpoint please follow the link below to find some resources we recommend to assist in this area.

Click here to find resources to assist in coping with bullying.