Employers – Did you know that you can be held accountable for bullying or harassment in the workplace?…Not being aware of it does not get you off the hook!
Here is an overview of the basics:
Bullying in the workplace is any recurring inappropriate conduct that undermines a person’s right to dignity at work. Bullying can be carried out by one person or several people – it is aimed at an individual or a group where the objective is to make them feel inferior or victimized. Bullying can come in the form of a verbal or physical assault and can also take place over the internet – this is known as cyber bullying and can be performed via many methods – Mobile phones, social networking sites, emails and texts are all common vehicles for cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is becoming more and more prevalent in society.
Keep in mind that harassment based on civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community is considered discrimination.
Bullying isn’t always obvious – in fact it can come in many shapes and forms – some examples are:
- Social exclusion or isolation
- Damaging someone’s reputation through gossip or rumour
- Any form of intimidation
- Aggressive or obscene language or behaviour
- Repeated requests for unreasonable tasks to be carried out
Under current Irish employment legislation (The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011) companies are accountable when it comes to bullying and harassment in the workplace or workplace disputes. It is vital for employers to be mindful of the legislation as companies are answerable for the actions of employees, suppliers and customers even in cases where the company is not aware that bullying or harassment is taking place.
To defend itself a company must illustrate how it did everything reasonably practicable to prevent bullying and / or harassment from taking place in the workplace. The company must also show that when an instance of bullying or harassment occurred the company took immediate, fair and decisive action.
There is a huge risk of exposure if companies do not adhere to the strict Regulations. Those found in violation of the Act may be liable for fines and in severe circumstances imprisonment on summary conviction.
Bullying creates a very hostile work environment and can negatively affect employee performance – it can also cause a company to lose key members of staff. Bullying can affect both the safety and the health of employees – this violates the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
It is abundantly clear that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to prevent bullying in the workplace.
In order to avoid bullying and harassment an employer should include harassment-related policies and procedures in the Employee Handbook. This will clarify what is expected of employees and what the protocol is if bullying takes place.
For advice on what to do refer to the Labour Relations Commission’s Code of Practice detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace:
For further employment legislation and HR advice or to arrange a complimentary consultation/audit with a HR expert at your premises contact us at The HR Company.