The latest workplace bullying story to hit the news this week is about a PA, Dawn Bailey who, after turning 50, was subjected to jokes that her boss should trade her in for a younger model.
Despite being almost a decade older than his PA, it’s alleged that Stephen Ball wanted a younger staff. Overlooking 19 years of exemplary service to the firm, Stephen Ball also allegedly focussed on his PA’s recent illness as well as her age as a sign that she needed replacing.
Miss Bailey complained, of course. She raised a grievance.
The internal investigators found no evidence. But wait a minute. What evidence were they looking for? We’re talking about insidious jokes about age made in 2011. Were the investigators expecting these comments to have hung suspended in speech bubbles above her desk for a year until the investigators turned up?
The government is seeking to reduce the need for Tribunals, but this is why we need them. They’re independent. They’re not funded by the accused employer. They’ve got some common sense. They know there won’t be damning speech bubbles to be gathered up like balloons and marked Exhibit A. They’re able to weigh up character from witness statements and cross examination and they’ve seen and heard it all.
With the government’s employment reforms, employers have significant and growing power to contain, control, badly investigate and dismiss workplace bullying complaints.
We have to do all we can to burst that bubble.