Handling a bullying, harassment or discrimination complaint at work

When harassment at work could be a crime

As an employer or manager, there may be situations where you think harassment at work could be a crime.

For example, if an employee tells you they've been:

  • physically attacked
  • sexually assaulted
  • the victim of a hate crime, for example racist or homophobic abuse
  • threatened with violence

You should talk to them about whether they want to report it to the police, and support them if they choose to report it.

Before doing this, you should:

  • get specialist advice, for example from a relevant charity or helpline
  • consider getting legal advice

You should not put any pressure on them to make any particular decision. If they do not want to tell the police, they do not have to.

In most cases, you should go along with their decision. But you might decide you have to tell the police yourself in some circumstances. This might include if you or they think there's likely to be:

  • an ongoing risk to their safety or the safety of others
  • an increased risk to their safety because they're a vulnerable person, for example they have a mental health condition

Before telling the police, you should talk with the person who's made the complaint. You should also let them know once you've told the police.

If you're not sure what to do, you should make sure you get specialist and legal advice.

If it's been reported to the police or it's going through a court

It’s unlikely that you'll have to wait for the criminal process to finish before you can:

But you should check with the police before doing either of these things, and consider getting legal advice, to make sure there is no risk of prejudicing the criminal process.

You should give information to the police if they ask for it.

If there's no criminal conviction

If you wait for the criminal process to end and it does not result in a conviction, you may still be able to take disciplinary action. This is because the level of evidence needed to prove a crime is higher than for an employer's disciplinary process to decide that a workplace disciplinary offence has been committed.

Specialist advice and other support

If you're dealing with a complaint that might be a crime, you can get more help and information from:

For hate crime, you can get help and information from:

Contact the police

To contact the police:

  • call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger
  • call 101 if it's not an emergency

To report a crime online, visit:

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