Have you recently reviewed your Anti-Bullying and Harassment policies and practices?

Written by Rosanne Edger | News | Blog | Posted 14/07/2022 11:41:02

2020 saw the introduction of a new Code of Practice on preventing and resolving bullying in the workplace. In March 2022 a new Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment was launched.

While Codes of Practice are not legal requirements, compliance or non-compliance with such can be presented as evidence in any such claim, which will be duly considered. Hence, it is important that employers are familiar with these and have considered them fully in terms of how they plan to implement and communicate anti-bullying and harassment practices in their workplace.

Both of these Codes of Practice promote and focus on prevention. This can come through education, communication and highlighting the appropriate steps to follow in a situation where an employee is uncomfortable and feels they are being treated in such a manner. There is a focus on informal stages (with the Code of Practice on bullying going so far as to introduce a secondary informal step) where it is advisable that, quickly and promptly, concerns are raised, discussed and solutions put in place.

While employers can have one policy covering both bullying and harassment, which is quite usual; there are some distinct differences. For example, as referred to above, there is a secondary informal stage in a bullying complaint, which is not referenced in the Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment. The code pertaining to bullying provides examples of what can constitute bullying and interestingly what does not constitute bullying. As part of the secondary informal stage a review of the complaint and examples provided can be undertaken whereby a nominated person is reviewing these to understand whether there are concrete examples, the matter is in fact bullying, understanding the context and determining the next course of action. At all times, the focus being on finding ways to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of everyone. Additionally, when it comes to investigating a harassment complaint this code advises that at least two people should be involved in the investigation (calling out that this may not always be feasible). The code on bullying does not call this out, referring only to how the investigation should be conducted by a ‘designated member(s) of management’. The Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment also refers to how a policy should include a statement to encourage employees to challenge such behaviours/ potential behaviours in the workplace.

Both Codes refer to how bullying and harassment can occur outside of work such as at training courses/ conferences, social events or on business related travel and how it can be the actions of other non-employee stakeholders in the business such as clients, service users or suppliers. It is important that when reviewing policies that such references are made and highlighted to ensure people are aware of this.

While all the nuances of each Code of Practice cannot be covered in this piece it is important that each employer takes time to consider these; whether their current policies are fit for purpose and whether there are other actions that can be undertaken to promote a culture of anti-bullying and harassment in the workplace. Afterall, that is the purpose of these Codes of Practice.

References Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (2022), Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work, Statutory Instrument 674 of 2020

Written by: Rosanne Edger MCIPD, HR Consultant June 2022

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