New Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work
The Health and Safety Authority and the Workplace Relations Commission have jointly published a Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work. This Code of Practice entered into operation on 23 December 2020 and revokes and replaces the Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work 2007.
The Code of Practice, which is set out in the Schedule to the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work) Order 2020 (SI No. 674 of 2020), is a code of practice for the purposes of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (No. 19 of 1990).
The Code of Practice applies to all employments in Ireland irrespective of whether employees work at a fixed location, at home or are mobile. The purpose of the Code of Practice is to provide guidance for employers, employees and their representatives on good practice and procedures for addressing and resolving issues around workplace bullying.
Structure of Code of Practice:
The Code consists of the following sections and appendices:
- Section 1: Introduction
- Section 2: What are Harassment and Bullying at Work?
- Section 3: Management of Bullying at Work
- Section 4: Intervention in Workplace Bullying
- Section 5: Conclusion of Formal Process and Follow Up
- Section 6: Role of the HSA and the WRC
- Appendix 1: How to Prepare an Anti-Bullying Policy
- Appendix 2: Extracts from the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
- Appendix 3: Some relevant Organisations and Publications
A Brief Summary:
This Code of Practice came into effect on 23 December 2020 and from that date it replaces the Code of Practice entitled “Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work” which was issued by the HSA in March 2007 in accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the “Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace” issued by the then Labour Relations Commission LRC (now WRC) in 2002 in accordance with section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990.
The Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work was developed by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
This Code of Practice provides practical guidance for employers on identifying and preventing bullying at work arising from their duties under section 8 (2) (b) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 as regards ‘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 and welfare at work of his or her employees at risk’. It also applies to employees in relation to their duties under section 13 (1) (e) of the 2005 Act to ‘not engage in improper conduct or behaviour that is likely to endanger his or her own safety, health and welfare at work or that of any other person’.
- provides practical guidance on identifying, managing and preventing bullying at work arising from employers’ duties under section 8 (2) (b) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005;
- is based on good industrial relations principles governing effective engagement and processes in the workplace;
- highlights the procedure to be put in place by employers and the need to clearly state that bullying in the workplace is not acceptable and complaints of bullying will be dealt with sensitively. The Code reinforces obligations for employers to progress complaints informally where possible, and otherwise, as appropriate, formally; emphasises the importance of records being kept of interventions and decisions in line with General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and the Data Protection Act 2018; and
- clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities of both organisations responsible for this Code and outlines these graphically by way of a flow chart:
Role of Employers:
Each employer should:
- Uphold the duty to manage and conduct work activities in such a way as to prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put at risk an employee’s safety, health or welfare at work. This duty on employers means that they must act reasonably to prevent workplace bullying patterns developing and where there are complaints, the employer must react reasonably, assess a complaint, record actions and put in place a suitable response based on each case arising.
- Prepare a Safety Statement under section 20 of the 2005 Act, based on an identification of the hazards to safety, health and welfare at the place of work, an assessment of the risks involved and setting down the preventive measures necessary to protect safety, health and welfare. Risk is the likelihood of a hazard causing harm and the extent of that harm.
- Develop a proper workplace anti-bullying policy, in consultation with employees, to ensure a system is in place for dealing with complaints and that disciplinary action may follow where bullying is found to have occurred.(Template in Appendix 1) Consultation with employees on health and safety matters is required under Section 26 of the 2005 Act, in addition to the requirements of Sections 8 and 9 of the Act.
A Brief Note on the HSA’s Duties under this Code:
The HSA has the statutory remit to ensure employer duties of care to all employees and management of improper conduct at work, where the hazard of bullying exists, is upheld. The HSA can, where an employer fails to act reasonably in an existing bullying matter, issue enforcement action in various forms, from verbal advice to written advice, an Improvement Direction or an Improvement Notice. The HSA can also, after investigation, forward a file, with recommendations, to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for their decision as to the prosecution of employers where there is evidence that the employers have failed in their duty to protect an employee or employees from the harmful fallout of bullying.
The HSA has no role in the sanction or disciplinary actions taken in these matters and does not have a role in mediation, negotiation or conflict resolution between parties to a bullying case.
Use of the Code of Practice in Proceedings:
Failure to follow this Code is not an offence in itself. However, as regards the use of Codes of Practice in criminal proceedings, a document bearing the seal of the Authority and purporting to be a Code of Practice or part of a code of practice published or approved of by the HSA is admissible as evidence under section 61 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.