Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

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Harassment and bullying - general information

Harassment is any form of unwanted and unwelcome behaviour which may range from mildly unpleasant remarks to physical violence.

Harassment

Harassment is termed sexual harassment if the unwanted behaviours are linked to your gender or sexual orientation. The EU definition of sexual harassment is "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of men and women at work".

Racial harassment is when the behaviours are linked to your skin colour, race, cultural background, etc. 

Common types of offence for gender, race, faith-hate & disablist discrimination include:

  • Abuse - where someone is verbally abused e.g. name calling.
  • Assault - where someone is physically attacked.
  • Damage - when property is damaged e.g. window broken, car scratched etc.
  • Harassment - continual nuisance, however minor.

If the harassment is physical, the criminal law of assault may be appropriate. If the harassment comprises regular following, watching, repeated unsolicited contact or gifts, etc. the term stalking may be appropriate.

Bullying

Bullying is the common denominator of harassment, discrimination, abuse and violence, etc. The source of most bullying and harassment can usually be traced to one individual. Bullying can happen to anyone and at any age.

The differences between harassment and bullying are, briefly; harassment tends to have a strong physical component and is usually linked to gender, race, disability or physical violence; bullying tends to be a large number of incidents (individually trivial) over a long period comprising constant unjustified and unsubstantiated criticism.

Bullying and harassment (at work, in society, at school and at home) is a major cause of injury to health, both physical and mental. Over time, bullying and harassment result in trauma, which is a psychiatric injury, the collective symptoms of which often constitute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Help for young people

In Northampton, young people can access help from Service Six: a charitable service which the council has supported Northants County Council to commission to provide a variety of face-to-face, web-based, and other services to help tackle bullying (and to provide help and support across a range of other needs too).

Help for adults

Local counselling services and employee assistance schemes such as Confidential Care (CIC) may be able to help adults to access counselling and support. In some cases, services such as Northants Racial Equality Council may be able to advise about courses of action to tackle discrimination and bullying.

Areas of UK law that apply to harassment

UK laws relating to harassment include:

  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975: discrimination on the grounds of sex by dismissing an employee or submitting them to "any other detriment"
  • Race Relations Act 1976: ditto on racial grounds.
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005: ditto on grounds of disability.
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1996: harassment and stalking.
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994: intentional harassment for causing another person harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
  • Criminal law of assault
  • Human Rights Act