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Cyberbullying – Employer Responsibilities

Microsoft have reported that since 31st January 2020 they have seen a 500% increase in the use of Teams, which is perhaps unsurprising given how many businesses have adopted the technology to help facilitate working from home.  However, many other technologies such as Zoom, WhatsApp (who have reported a 40% jump) and Facebook messenger have also been adopted formally and informally, to enable employees working from home or on furlough leave to stay in touch and communicate.

With many people feeling isolated and anxious during lockdown, staying in touch via social media can be positive for the employees and the business.  However, just because employees are not physically in the workplace or are on furlough, it does not mean that employers can ignore any incidents of bullying that they become aware of using technology (known as cyberbullying).

ACAS highlight that bullying can take place“face-to-face, on social media, in emails or phone calls”.  Although they do not specify it, it is very likely that this would include video calls and internal messaging services also.   As an employer, you cannot spend all day every day monitoring employee communication (and we would not recommend doing so, this is another conversation or three!).  However, what can employers do to ensure that their teams are appropriately protected from cyberbullying?

1.Have a clear social media policy

This should set out good practice and what is unacceptable, and point out that messaging apps are included within the definition of social media.  This document should also be linked to other relevant policies, such as dignity at work, disciplinary, etc.  Many staff working from home may not know how to access things, and so ensure that these are circulated.

2. Undertake training

Ensure your team understand what constitutes bullying, and expected behaviours – you may have already provided this in relation to face-to-face behaviour in the workplace, and so this can be extended to cover social media.  Within this, be sure to highlight that employees are expected to behave respectfully towards each other outside of working hours too.  Zoom can be a very effective tool for delivering training, with break-out rooms to allow for discussion of ore sensitive topics.

3. Encourage employees to raise concerns

Employees may feel that the managers are far too busy dealing with the Coronavirus repose to listen to their concerns at the moment, and so it is important to keep lines of communication open with regular check-ins.  The policies and training should also make it clear how employees can raise any concerns that they may have, and encourage them to do so.

4. Make sure you investigate and take appropriate steps

Using appropriate steps and measures, it’s important to investigate any concerns of cyberbullying and to make sure that any necessary policies/procedures are followed correctly, such as bullying and anti-harassment policy or grievance procedure.

Remember, on face value it may seem harmless, but understanding the full picture can paint a different picture. As employer it’s important to support a good culture within your business and lead from the front.

The View HR team are here to support employers who are looking at implementing any of the above, or if you have concerns about something that has happened and would like to discuss how best to respond.