What if I am unfairly accused of being a bully?

If you are accused of bullying, your employer must act fairly towards you by investigating the allegations promptly and carefully and giving you a proper chance to respond. The more serious the allegations, the more thorough the investigation must be.

The employer must also follow its own disciplinary procedure – or any separate procedure for dealing with bullying and harassment if there is one. Some public sector employers will have a detailed procedure in place.

Tribunals recognise the serious impact that being wrongly accused of discrimination or bullying has on future employment prospects and expect a high standard of investigation and procedural fairness.

You should be allowed to see copies of witness statements and any other evidence and discuss these with your rep in good time before the hearing and your rep may be entitled to cross-examine witnesses, depending what the allegations are.

Keep a careful journal of events and keep copies of any letters or emails.

You have a right to be accompanied to disciplinary meetings by your trade union rep or, if you do not have a rep, a colleague.

Allegations should be investigated whilst they are still fresh in everybody’s minds.

It would be unfair to suspend or transfer you automatically, without considering whether this is the right response in your particular case. Your employer should keep you informed at every stage and not delay unreasonably, remembering that the shock and isolation of a prolonged suspension can cause significant damage to your mental health and well-being.

If you are suspended, you should receive your normal pay and the suspension should follow the rules in your employer's disciplinary and dismissal procedure.

Being accused of bullying can be as stressful as being bullied. During the investigation process, your employer should offer support to you as well as to your accuser. If your employer offers counselling services, you should ask to access these.

For more information, see the general advice in the Work Rights section of workSMART. Talk to your union rep. Employment relations organisation Acas has a helpline where you can get advice. Tel: 0300 123 1100.

A government-funded advice line advising and assisting individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights is provided by the Equality Advisory and Support Service, tel: 0808 800 0082.

If your employer decides you are guilty of bullying, the penalty will depend on the seriousness of the allegations as well as any mitigating factors, for example, whether you apologised promptly and took steps to change your behaviour, your previous disciplinary record and any special circumstances, such as family problems you may be experiencing.

The penalty can range from dismissal without notice or notice pay through to a formal warning, demotion, loss of bonus, compulsory relocation or transfer, or compulsory training in topics like anger management or diversity. You have a right of appeal.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.