'You'll die soon' | Victim of vile office abuse on a mission to criminalise workplace bullying

Victim of vile office abuse on a mission to criminalise workplace bullying

A former executive assistant who was horrifically targeted at work over her incurable autoimmune condition – including being told she wouldn’t be promoted because she would “die soon” - is on a mission to introduce a new law which would crackdown on bullying in the workplace.

Skevi Constantinou says she cannot believe such a law doesn’t already exist, and has organised a petition to the Government to change this.

Bullying is recognised as the most common form of misconduct in the UK, with over a quarter of workers having experienced this at some point in their career. 

Constantinou revealed examples of the relentless bullying she experienced at work, including being told she didn't deserve a promotion because “she would die soon anyway” due to an incurable underlying autoimmune condition.

She was also reportedly once asked to produce evidence of her illness to justify having a car parking space, after a colleague called for it to be revoked because she 'could not see her illness'.

On other occasions, she was shouted at for using a disabled toilet and was racially abused after being overheard talking to her mum on the phone in Greek.

She said when she raised the issues, she was told to “ring the company hotline because it’s all in your head and you are being sensitive”.

“After my own experiences with horrific bullying in the workplace, nothing was done,” she said.

“Bullying was occurring for many years in my career and it impacted me to the point where I felt so scared to go to work. I would be sick in the morning and even on the car drive where I would have to pull over. The fear was overwhelming.

“I was so scared to speak up and would endure in silence, which had a huge impact on my physical and mental health. Every evening I would go home and cry. It started to impact my performance at work and the bullying got worse. I would have trash cans emptied on my desk with Post It notes saying “will the germs kill you?” because they knew I was immune suppressed.

“It got to the point where things got so bad, I opted in for voluntary redundancy when the opportunity arose because I had reached breaking point.

“We all deserve to go to work and be respected in a safe environment. Whilst my own experiences have shaped me in many ways, I want to help others as best as possible.”

Staff concerned about bullying claims

Only 50% of Brits say their workplace takes bullying, discrimination, or harassment complaints seriously, data from 2022 suggests.

Specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp asked the British public how empowered they feel when it comes to seeking justice.

In a survey of 2,000 British adults carried out by the firm, it found that most people know what to do if something traumatic at work happened to them.

They were asked about situations involving medical negligence, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse, and issues with the police.

And just 50% said their workplace takes bullying, discrimination, or harassment complaints seriously.

Meanwhile, 59% said it’s too expensive to access legal support, while 52% said there are too many barriers to getting legal support, and just 41% said if they needed help, support or to make a complaint, they’d be comfortable approaching a law firm.

Despite these figures, workplace bullying is not a specific crime under UK law. Some bullying behaviour may be covered by other legislation, for example on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality and disability, but there are no penalties for bullying itself.

Constantinou said: “This is not enough.

“There are other countries around the world where it is illegal to bully someone in the workplace. There should also be penalties in the UK for this unkind behaviour.”

She went on: “Employers should be more accountable. Bullies need to think about their actions as there is no need to bully someone in the workplace. If there is a pressing issue, this can be discussed maturely. It may give someone comfort to those being bullied that when they do speak up, action may be taken and that they are safe to continue to work.

“My aim is to see a UK law in place with a full manifesto that employees must abide to so that bullying is not permitted and becomes illegal in the workplace.”

How HR can step up

While Constantinou’s campaign to make workplace bullying a crime is hugely admirable, it may take years for this to become a reality. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance that, in the meantime, HR takes steps to eradicate the issue.

The majority of employers are aware of the protections afforded to employees under the Equality Act relating to issues of discrimination and harassment, and do have up-to-date and comprehensive policies on equality, diversity and inclusion.

However, employers should keep an eye on their workplace culture generally to make sure it is professional and appropriate, as well as inclusive. Up-to-date training on communicating in a modern-day workplace should also be provided to employees regularly to ensure all workers know what is and what is not appropriate workplace behaviour.

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