Bullying in the workplace Legal Update
A new code of practice concerning the prevention and resolution of bullying at work has been made by way of a statutory instrument which was published on the 5th January 2021.
Statutory Instrument (No. 674/2020) is entitled Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work) Order 2020.
The Statutory Instrument defines harassment and bullying at work, sets out steps for the management of bullying at work and the preventative measures and actions that should be taken, the formal process which should be implemented and describes the role of the Health and Safety Authority and Workplace Relations Commission.
This code of practice came into effect on 23rd December 2020 and replaces the previous code of practice issued by the Health and Safety Authority in March 2007.
The purpose is to provide practical guidance to employers on identifying and preventing bullying in the workplace. It applies to all employments in Ireland.
Harassment and Bullying At Work
The code emphasises that “harassment” and “bullying” are distinct legal concepts and a behaviour cannot be both, it is either one or the other.
Harassment must arise under one of the 9 grounds of discrimination.
Bullying is defined as:
“Workplace bullying 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 be reasonably 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”.
Bullying does not include:
- Normal Performance management
- Feedback, guidance, advice
- Differences of opinion
- Reasonable corrective action
- Workplace conflict and disagreements
While a bullying and harassment policy is of course essential for an employer to implement as part of their overall HR policies and procedures, employees also play their part in ensuring a good working culture and atmosphere in the workplace through their own behaviour and personal responsibility. The code provides for an informal process, a secondary informal process, and a formal complaint.
Any investigation should be carried out in accordance with the anti-bullying policy in the workplace and should be governed by terms of reference.