Under South Africa’s Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (EEA), bullying in the workplace is considered a form of unfair discrimination, as outlined in Section 6, and is strictly prohibited. Beyond legal obligations, bullying harms employees’ well-being, productivity and the overall work environment. In this article, we explore what constitutes bullying, the importance of having an anti-bullying policy, and the actions an employee can take if an employer fails to address the issue.

Identifying bullying behaviours: Bullying encompasses a range of behaviours that create a hostile work environment. Examples include: 

  1. Inappropriate targeted practical jokes; 
  2. Threats; 
  3. Humiliation; 
  4. Unjust Criticism; 
  5. Excessive Performance Monitoring; 
  6. Continued Denial of Time Off Requests without a Valid Reason; 
  7. Unclear or unreasonable Deadlines; 
  8. Sending Harsh Emails or Messages; 
  9. Verbal Abuse. 

The Significance of Anti-Bullying Policy: Implementing an anti-bullying policy is vital for several reasons. Such a policy: 

  1. Educates employees about what constitutes bullying; 
  2. Establish clear, consistent procedures for addressing bullying incidents; 
  3. Aims to prevent the recurrence of bullying; 
  4. Ensure that employers take proactive steps to create a safe and healthy workplace 

The content and communication of the anti-bullying policy are crucial in assessing an employer’s commitment to addressing bullying effectively. 

Legal Recourse for Employees: if an employer fails to take the necessary steps to eliminate bullying, employees have legal recourse: 

  1. Duty of Employers: Employers are legally responsible for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. Failure to fulfil this obligation constitutes an infringement. As a result, the employer may be liable to pay damages or compensation to the victim of bullying. 
  2. Referral to the CCMA: Unsatisfied employees can refer unfair discrimination disputes to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA). This provides a formal avenue for resolving issues when employers do not adequately address bullying. 


To foster a positive work environment and comply with legal obligations, employers should train their employees to recognize and report bullying, proactively prevent bullying rather than reactively addressing incidents, give prompt attention to bullying complaints and swiftly take the necessary corrective actions. Contact an Attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc. for all your legal needs!