Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Victimisation (BHDV) in Aviation

By law, employers must do everything they reasonably can to protect staff from BHDV and they must also set out a written grievance procedure that is shared with all employees.

CHIRP’s sole purpose is to enhance aviation safety by providing an independent confidential reporting function. Within this remit, any aviation-related safety or security issue that gives cause for concern may be reported to CHIRP but we are not able to investigate reports that involve industrial relations, terms and conditions of employment, or personality-based conflicts. UK employment tribunals deal with claims that may be brought against employers by employees relating to their employment; it is not the responsibility of CHIRP to be an arbitrator when employment disputes arise.

However, it is recognised that one-off or repeated instances of BHDV can have a deleterious effect on individual performance, mental health, stress and company culture, and that these in themselves can have second-order safety implications.  Although CHIRP cannot enter into any investigations of BHDV claims, the aggregate of such reports may provide useful insights into the scale of any issue within the aviation sector and the potential impact on safety it may have.

In conjunction with the CAA, CHIRP has therefore implemented a BHDV reporting portal that will log received reports and associated information within the CHIRP confidential database. Only CHIRP staff will have access to these details, there is no connectivity to CAA systems

CHIRP has no specific expertise or resources to investigate reports about BHDV. When BHDV has an impact on safety, CHIRP’s role is to anonymously aggregate the data from associated reports to build a picture of the prevalence of BHDV in the aviation sector, the human factor and safety impacts this may have, and explore improvements that might be made. As part of this, CHIRP will provide the CAA with disidentified, aggregated BHDV statistics and information on a regular basis.

CLICK HERE to report a BHDV concern.

Reporting BHDV

When problems at work arise due to other’s behaviours, it is better to raise it with the employer first and BHDV reports should normally be made through the appropriate channels in accordance with your organisation’s policy on bullying and harassment.  If there is no policy, your employer still has a legal duty of care to protect you while you’re at work.  If you feel unable to report your concern to the company and it has a specific safety-related focus, you can report a BHDV concern to the CHIRP confidential reporting process by using the link below.

CLICK HERE to report a BHDV concern

Reports to CHIRP must be verifiable – anonymous reports are not normally accepted.  The CHIRP reporting process requires reporters to input a personal email address in order to receive a personalised link to the CHIRP reporting system.  Individuals are then invited to complete relevant elements of a reporting questionnaire in order to record their concerns.  All reports are treated in absolute confidence in order that reporters’ identities are protected – individuals’ personal details are never passed to the CAA without a reporter’s consent to do so.

All submitted reports will be processed and included in disidentified aggregated information that will be passed to the CAA on a regular basis. Because CHIRP has no remit or ability to investigate specific reports of BHDV you should only expect to receive from CHIRP an acknowledgement of report receipt.

BHDV Definitions

Bullying and harassment behaviours may be against one or more people and may involve single or repeated incidents across a wide spectrum of behaviour, ranging from extreme forms of intimidation, such as physical violence, to more subtle forms such as ignoring someone. It can occur without witnesses, in face-to-face interactions, as well as online.  The bullying might be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident that happens face-to-face, on social media, in emails or in phone calls.  Bullying falls under four main categories, Psychological, Verbal, Physical and Cyberbullying, and its effects can have far-reaching consequences.  

Anyone can be bullied, but it usually involves individuals or groups with more power, bullying someone with less. The person who is being bullied can feel humiliated, threatened or upset, and it can become a pattern of behaviour.  Workplace bullying can happen at work or at work social events and may not always be obvious or noticed by others.

Examples include:

  • Unwanted physical contact.
  • Unwelcome remarks about a person’s age, dress, appearance, race or marital status, jokes at personal expense, offensive language, gossip, slander, sectarian songs and letters.
  • Posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems.
  • Isolation or non-cooperation and exclusion from social activities.
  • Coercion for sexual favours.
  • Pressure to participate in political/religious groups.
  • Personal intrusion from pestering, spying and stalking.
  • Failure to safeguard confidential information
  • Shouting and bawling.
  • Setting impossible deadlines.
  • Persistent unwarranted criticism.
  • Personal insults.

The terms bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably. However, in the UK Equality Act 2010, harassment has a specific meaning: ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’.

Below are some broad descriptions to help you in selection of the right category, for more detail see:



Bullying – Bullying is unwanted behaviour from a person or group that makes you feel uncomfortable; frightened; intimidated; offended; insulted; less respected or put down; made fun of; or upset. By definition, if the unwanted behaviour involves any of the protected characteristics of age; pregnancy and maternity; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation then it is not bullying but is harassment (see below).

Harassment – By definition, harassment is when bullying or other unwanted behaviour involves, or is because of, any of the protected characteristics of age; pregnancy and maternity; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation.  For it to count as harassment, the unwanted behaviour must have either violated the person’s dignity (whether it was intended or not), or have created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person (whether it was intended or not).

Discrimination – by law, being discriminated against is when you’re treated unfairly because you have, are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has any of the protected characteristics of age; pregnancy and maternity; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation.  It can be against the law for anyone to treat you unfairly because of any of these reasons.

Victimisation – Victimisation is a sub-set of discrimination and involves being treated unfairly because you made or supported a complaint to do with discrimination, harassment or a protected characteristic, or someone thinks you did.

UK Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics

  1. Age – belonging to a particular age or range of ages.
  2. Pregnancy and maternity – treatment of a woman during the protected period from the beginning of pregnancy up until she returns to work from her maternity leave (or two weeks after the end of her pregnancy should she not be entitled to maternity leave). This includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
  3. Disability – includes physical or mental impairment which has (or has had) a substantial and long-term (normally greater than, or predicted to be greater than, 12 months) adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
  4. Gender reassignment – gender reassignment is a personal process involving moving away from one’s birth sex to a preferred gender, rather than to any medical process. This can include how a person identifies their gender which could be as non-binary, gender neutral or another term.
  5. Marriage and civil partnership – only people who are married or in a civil partnership are protected against discrimination on this ground. The status of being unmarried or single is not protected.
  6. Race – includes colour, nationality (including citizenship) and ethnic or national origins.
  7. Religion or belief – includes any religion and any religious or philosophical belief that falls within the protection of the Equality Act; it can also include a lack of any such religion or belief.
  8. Sex – a person’s gender.
  9. Sexual orientation – a person’s sexual preferences towards: persons of the same sex (that is, the person is a gay man or a lesbian); persons of the opposite sex (that is, the person is heterosexual); or persons of either sex (that is, the person is bisexual).

BHDV Support

Internal support from your organisation.   The level of internal support for BHDV claims will vary from employer to employer but may include:

  • Internal Procedures, including grievance, bullying and harassment
  • Manager(s)
  • Human Resources
  • Trade Unions
  • Employee Forums / Networks
  • Employee Assistance Programmes
  • Occupational Health
  • Any other support an employer offers, such as Mental Health First Aiders

External support outside of your organisation.   External support available to all includes: