Is your Anti-Bullying Policy up to date?

Instances of bullying in the workplace are not always easy to identify and can pose a significant challenge for many businesses to manage efficiently.

That’s because the behaviour that constitutes bullying is often subtle and carried out by trusted employees in a bid to undermine colleagues. This can often take the form of verbal, emotional, and in some cases, physical actions. Whatever form it takes, it can be a distressing situation for the affected employee who may not know how to report bullying in the workplace and may not feel comfortable initiating the process. Bullying claims at work can also damage your business from the inside out, so it’s important to ensure that all action is taken to prevent instances of this nature from occurring.

In order to prevent and manage bullying in the workplace, it’s essential that an Anti-Bullying Policy is in place and reviewed on a regular basis. Here, we look at what bullying at work is defined as and what to include in your Anti-Bullying Policy and procedure.

What is bullying at work?

The ‘Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work’ defines bullying at work 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”.

What to include in your Anti-Bullying Policy?

Below are some key factors to consider when developing your Anti-Bullying Policy:

  • Your business’s zero-tolerance stance towards any behaviour that could be considered a violation of an employee’s dignity.
  • Behaviours that constitute bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.
  • Who your Anti-Bullying Policy applies to: Remember that visitors, customers, and business contacts that attend your place of work are also covered by your policy and should adhere to it at all times.
  • The complaints procedure.
  • The complaint investigation procedure.
  • An informal procedure when attempting to resolve an allegation with minimum conflict and stress for the individuals involved.
  • A formal procedure that should follow the informal procedure if it’s deemed inappropriate. The formal procedure may also be needed if, after the informal stage, the bullying continues.
  • Potential outcomes if a complaint is upheld.
  • Process if a complaint is not upheld.

Once your Anti-Bullying Policy is complete and in place, it’s advised that it’s communicated to all employees and any updates to the policy and procedure are provided accordingly. This will ensure a clear and transparent process and outline expectations regarding behaviour in the workplace.

Furthermore, employees who have a role to play in the informal or formal procedure should receive appropriate training to ensure the process is completed correctly.

What else can you do to address bullying in the workplace?

Without a doubt, your Anti-Bullying Policy is the most reliable source when addressing allegations of workplace bullying. However, you can also think about appointing a ‘Contact Person’. This person will act as the first step for anyone enquiring about a possible bullying case and will be able to provide assistance on the next steps.

Appointing a Contact Person can help resolve a complaint sooner and in an informal manner. Their role is generally a supportive one; they should be there to listen and offer guidance in line with company policy and procedures. This support, of course, must be given on a strictly confidential basis.

And yet, appointing a Contact Person may not be practical for all businesses. If you do decide to go down the Contact Person route, the employee nominated for this role should be carefully selected and trained. They should have no role in the investigation of any complaint or involvement in the details of a complaint as they must remain completely impartial.

Need help creating your anti-bullying policy?

If you need help creating your anti-bullying policy, our expert HR consultants are here for you. To speak to a consultant now, call 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

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Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

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Rhiannon Coyne

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David Begg

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David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

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