HOME secretary Priti Patel was found to have bullied civil servants by the Prime Minister’s independent advisor to the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan.

Despite an independent Cabinet Office investigation finding evidence of bullying, the Prime Minister chose to clear her last week and found no breach of the code.

Patel issued a “non-apology” refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing while Allan threw himself on his sword, resigning after his job was fossilised by the PM. If bullies can get off with bullying with no real sanctions where does this leave civil servant workers?

In the case of Patel, potentially being a witness in a 10-day employment tribunal next year brought by the former Home Office permanent secretary, Philip Rutnam. He’s claiming constructive dismissal for a “vicious and orchestrated campaign” against him by Patel for challenging the alleged mistreatment of colleagues.

The home secretary has form for not following the ministerial code. Who can forget her having to resign from Theresa May’s cabinet three years ago? As international development secretary she failed to be candid with May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, business people and a senior lobbyist.

When Patel was an employment minister at the Department of Works and Pensions in 2015 a staff member secured an ex gratia settlement of £25,000 after alleging bullying by her. No admission of liability was made. Will Rutman’s case go the same way?

Just as the United States has had to cope with the carnage of a President with no ethics or respect for social norms, Boris Johnson’s legacy looks set to be similar. A country where the rule of law applies to us and not them. Examples abound whether Dominic Cummings’ disregard for lockdown rules or the appointment of multiple cronies to top government positions without advertising posts.

The Roman republic ended in 27 BC when power was seized by Rome’s first emperor, Augustus Caesar. He was first among equals – primus inter pares – but liked to disguise his autocratic tendencies to assuage privileged elites and plebs alike. Boris Johnson is more Augustus Gloop, gorging himself on power for the sake of power.

Yet like Trump, he has no respect for social norms and the rule of law. A primus inter dispares – first among unequals – setting standards to sail to moral decay. While the PM can misuse his position to protect political cronies, in the workplace harassment and bullying is unlawful. It’s important to call out bullying for what it is and know your rights.

Bullying is intimidating or insulting behaviour involving the abuse of power that can make someone feel upset, undermined or threatened. It can involve physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. For example, physical or psychological threats; overbearing and intimidating levels of supervision; inappropriate derogatory remarks about someone’s performance.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour that undermines a person’s dignity or creates a hostile workplace. A single incident can constitute it. Harassment may involve sexual advances, or be related to age, disability, gender, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy, race, colour, nationality, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Harassment can take other forms too.

It can include unwanted physical touching or grabbing; repeated unwelcome suggestions for social activity; offensive texts, messaging or internet posts; unwelcome sexual advances or suggestive behaviour; derogatory remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender; and mocking or belittling a person’s disability.

Bullying and harassment can give rise to different legal issues: an employer may be liable under the 2010 Equality Act if it fails to protect its employees and other workers from harassment in the course of their employment. This includes harassment by members of staff and, in some cases, third parties such as customers and visitors.

The 1997 Protection from Harassment Act can impose liability on an employer for a course of conduct amounting to harassment by an employee.

An employer has implied duties from an employment contract, including a duty to provide a safe and suitable working environment; not to destroy mutual trust and confidence; and to provide redress of grievances. The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act also requires employers to provide a safe place and system of work.

If you’re bullied at work, you can raise concerns confidentially and informally with a line manager or someone responsible for human resources. If you’re in a trade union, speak to your union representative or shop steward. If necessary, you can raise a formal complaint or grievance with the support of a trusted colleague or trade union rep.

If a grievance is not upheld, you should be able to appeal. Ultimately if abuse continues you can seek free legal help from Govan Law Centre on remedies by contacting m@govanlc.com or calling free on 0800 043 0306.