£1.2 million employee Bullying & Harassment award
Recently in the UK an employee was awarded approximately €1.2
million for bullying in the workplace.
It is not
inconceivable that the same could happen in Ireland.
There is increasing awareness of the social and economic
consequences flowing from bullying and harassment. The introduction
of measures to safeguard workers has become more critical
for employers. This is a matter of good management and limits
liability under health and safety, industrial relations and
A survey carried out in 2000 by
the European Foundation on the improvement of living and working
conditions in the 15 Member States of the European Union had the
following key findings –
- 9% of workers reported being subject to intimidation
and bullying in the workplace
- 2% of respondents reported sexual harassment
In an ESRI study carried out in 2001 it was reported that 1 in every
12 workers in Ireland has experienced bullying.
What is Bullying and Harassment?
Bullying and Harassment are often classed together but legally they
are distinguishable. Workplace Bullying has been defined (in a
Taskforce report dated 2001) as:
“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”.
The key element of this definition is that it emphasises
that the bullying actions must be repeated and states that a one
off incident is not considered to be bullying.
Harassment is discriminatory treatment of one person by
another because of a particular characteristic which is protected
by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2004 (for example
age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, race,
There are many legal remedies for employees who feel they have been
bullied or harassed.
- A Rights Commissioner claim under Industrial Relations Acts 1967 –
- Rights Commissioner claim under Safety Health and Welfare at Work
- Claim for constructive dismissal under Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977
- A personal injury action in the Civil Courts
What are the Bullying & Harassment risk factors?
which can lead to employee vulnerability to bullying or harassment can
- Where there is a pre-existing medical condition which triggers a
duty on the part of the employer to ensure that the workplace does not
expose that individual to unnecessary or excessive risks.
- Where working hours are excessive.
- Where work pressures are significant and unreasonable (including
pressures from workplace systems, clients and co-workers).
- Part-time or non permanent employees may be an increased risk factor
for bullying at work.
- The increasingly multi-cultural nature of society may increase the
risk of racial or religious harassment.
Preventing Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace?
are key actions that employers can take which include –
- Develop a bullying and harassment policy
- Conduct a risk assessment
- Make sure that communications by electronic means are covered in the
- Training of supervisors and managers in handling bullying and
- Review the risk factors regularly
- Implement a grievance procedure for effected employees
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interpretation of any matter and should not be seen as such. For
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