If there are any specific topics you would like covered in this publication, please forward your suggestions to Adare Human Resources Management:
- Employment Case Law – each month we review a number of interesting employment law cases and consider their implications for organisations. This month we look at the Redundancy Process. Read more >>>
- Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Decisions – each month we look at and review the decisions from the WRC. This provides a valuable insight into the types of discrimination cases before the WRC and the decisions that are issued. Read more >>>
- What to Keep an Eye Out For – what is new, changing, potentially changing or what you may have missed. Read more >>>
What is Bullying?
Bullying in the workplace has been described in various ways. The Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) definition is: "repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work."
An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but as a once off incident is not considered to be bullying.
Detailed information is given in the Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work 2007.
Some examples of behaviour that may constitute bullying:
- Purposely undermining someone;
- Targeting someone for special negative treatment;
- Manipulation of an individual’s reputation;
- Social exclusion or isolation;
- Intimidation; and
- Aggressive or obscene language.
Bullying - a Health and Safety Issue
Bullying is a workplace issue and a human relations issue. Therefore, it comes under the authority of various agencies and is on the agenda of many interested parties. It is a health and safety issue in so far as bullying has been identified as hazardous or dangerous as it can lead to both safety problems and health problems.
The Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005 addresses this;
“Section 8.— (1) Every employer shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees…
…(b) managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of his or her employees at risk;…”
It is also an Industrial Relations issue, a Human Resources issue, often a legal issue and a personal and public health issue. So many agencies and interested parties are stakeholders in this difficult area.
Employers have a duty of care to all Employees, to ensure they are both mentally and physically safe at work and that their health is not adversely affected by work. This duty of care means Employers must behave and react reasonably in relation to such matters.
The HSA, who can carry out inspections of Organisations, can make sure that the system of work is not one where bullying is facilitated or tolerated. Where bullying is identified (through a legitimate complaint) Employers should have a proper system to deal with bullying complaints, and act reasonably in implementing that system.
The HSA can assess this system and make recommendations, and where required, use powers of enforcement to ensure the system is reasonable and the management of bullying does not represent a risk to the Employee’s health and/or safety.
Rights and responsibilities of Employers and Employees:
Employees have both rights and responsibilities. Under Section 13 of the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005, Employees have a duty to their colleagues not to bully them,
“13.— (1) An employee shall, while at work—…
…(e) not engage in improper conduct or other behaviour that is likely to endanger his or her own safety, health and welfare at work or that of any other person;…”
Employees have rights if they are accused of bullying, which must also be defended.
This is where bullying departs from other hazards at work, as people who are accused have employment rights which mean that they cannot simply be removed if they are harming others, but the issue must be progressed fairly and transparently so that everybody’s rights are simultaneously met.
Where a bullying culture has been identified (through a number of complaints being received, for instance), Employers must take reasonable measures to prevent incidents of bullying occurring (through awareness raising and training as well as reacting speedily to resolve issues early/progress investigations and/or initiate control measures).
When and if they bullying occurs, Employers should prevent the risk of injury to the health of Employees worsening by providing and implementing support and assistance throughout the process, and reviewing and monitoring the environment afterwards, as far as is reasonable.
Managers and Supervisors have a particular responsibility to promote dignity in the workplace for all. They should be alert to the possibility of bullying behaviour and be familiar with the policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of bullying. Their behaviour may be modelled by others, as it may be considered acceptable. That’s why Managers, Supervisors and those in authority should be aware of their own behaviour at work and not engage in improper conduct in any form.
For queries relating to health and safety or HR and employment law matters, contact the team at Adare Human Resource Management – email@example.com / 01 5613594