Obtaining the report
Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying published
by site editor
It remains that men, and women, are natural bullies. Bullying becomes a means towards fulfiling an often fustrated desire to exercise control over another or others and as such may be linked to basic self-survival instincts. Eradicating bullying requires the re-education of the bully into a sense of self-awareness or enlightenment. The adult bully is the product of the environment we as a species have developed. It is an environment that has profits and not the inner welfare of the individual as its fulcrum. The logical pattern to events in such circumstance is clear.
Monday 10th April 2006
‘Preventing Bullying & Stress: Best Practice in the Workplace for 2006’
Minister for Labour Affairs Tony Killeen at NIFAST Cork Seminar
I am particularly pleased to be associated with this conference given that on 17th August last, I launched the Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying.
The principles laid down by the Expert Group in its Report will underpin future consideration of the issue by the Government, as anything less is not acceptable in a fair, safe and equitable workplace. The Group’s report is available free of charge on the Department’s website - www.entemp.ie.
These principles are:
• Workplace bullying is unacceptable in all circumstances,
• It is the responsibility of management to ensure that bullying is not tolerated at the workplace, and that,
• Incidents of bullying are adequately dealt with and brought to a fair and conclusive resolution in a timely fashion.
The Group in its Report determined that:
* Workplace bullying is an increasing problem. Whether this is due to an increase in the incidence of bullying or an increasing awareness of the unacceptability of bullying behaviour is not clearly demonstrable. However, the end result is the same – increased numbers of complaints, higher levels of workplace stress, great frustration with a lack of formal channels for resolving such complaints and an increased burden on all parties to resolve disputes.
In order to implement one of the main recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group’s Report, for a follow up survey to be carried out to update the ESRI survey done in 2001, my Department is currently evaluating tenders received. Present indications are that this new study will not be available until about next October.
The 2001 survey showed that 7% of workers had experienced bullying. Even if the percentage remains the same, numerically it is now higher. The updated research will give an up to date picture in this regard.
While the Expert Advisory Group set out a role which they considered for existing State agencies, there was not full agreement within the Group on its recommendations. One example of this is the recommendation that either the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Labour Court should be the final decision maker on bullying appeals and that the decision of whichever body was given statutory responsibility should be enforceable through the civil courts.
My Department has received the preliminary views of the Social Partners, other interested bodies and some members of the public on the recommendations of the Group.
I have already given a commitment to publish the results of the survey, which will be brought to Government along with the Report and the views of the Social Partners and other interested parties, for decision on how best to implement the Recommendations contained in the Expert Group’s Report. I hope to bring these proposals to Government within as short a timescale as possible.
This conference is also about the prevention of stress in the workplace. I was pleased to have been able to launch the Health and Safety Authority’s Work Positive – Prioritising organisational stress - an initiative aimed at tackling stress in the workplace in July of last year.
Work Positive is a comprehensive risk management tool that incorporates a risk assessment template covering the known causes of workplace stress. It provides a step-by-step guide to assessing risks of stress, outlining the aims of each step and thereby helping managers eliminate these risk factors in their organisation.
Workplaces in the normal course can be stressful but it is when it becomes an issue that has negative effects on the individual, it may become serious. There are risks in all workplaces and it is important that where stress on workers exists it is identified as such, assessed, and a strategy put in place to have it dealt with.
I understand that the Health and Safety Authority is currently assessing the results of the initial implementation programme and calibrating the risk assessment template in advance of its comprehensive rollout of the Programme.
Finally, I wish you success with your conference and your future work in this important area.
Workplace BullyingThe Reports
DIGNITY AT WORK – The Challenge Of Workplace Bullying
AN ANALYSIS OF THE REPORT OF THE IRISH TASK FORCE
ON THE PREVENTION OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
"There are no simple explanations as to what makes somebody a bully."
That single sentence is perhaps the most telling in the 80-page report, published on 10th April 2001 by the Irish Government’s Task Force Task on the prevention of workplace bullying.
Common sense would suggest that the presence of bullying implies an absence of adequate education with regard to bullying. Likewise the urge to bully implies an absence in the perpetrator of adequate education with regard to bullying.
The report reveals that of a random survey representative of 1.6m Irish employees, seven per- cent report having experienced bullying at work, equivalent to some 115,000 of the total workforce having been subjected to bullying.
The report draws attention to the financial losses incurred by employers as a result of permitting workplace bullying to occur and comments that on purely financial terms it makes common sense to eliminate the phenomenon of bullying.
Task Force chairman Eileen Doyle forewords the report with the words: "The occupational existence of individuals should reinforce human dignity and the experience of work should also contribute to the individual’s sense of well being in personal, economic and community terms".
For the purpose of their objective, the Task Force defined workplace bullying 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 individuals right to dignity at work.
An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity but as a once off incident is not considered to be bullying.
Perhaps a more embracing description might be:
intimidatory harrassment of another person be it violent or otherwise in nature
Of those questioned in the comprehensive survey and who said they had been bullied , 81.5 per cent said they had been subjected to verbal abuse and insults; 34.6 per cent suffered exclusion; 3.3per cent sexual harrassment; 1.8 per cent physical abuse and the remaining 16.8 per cent said they had been victim of other forms of bullying behaviour.
The report makes extensive use of tabular data to comprehensively catalogue the prevalence, nature, location and employment circumstances of the reported bullying. It also draws attention to existing methods of lawful redress through statutory and other avenues.
It makes no suggestion of change to existing bodies but does recommend that the Health and Safety Executive be empowered with the responsibility of providing a centrally co-ordinated response to the prevention of workplace bullying.
The Task Force also recommends that the appropriate State agencies introduce three parallel Codes of Practice on workplace bullying or harassment and that all employers should adopt a coherent and fully supported ’Dignity at Work Charter' backed up by stringent company policy.
The report stresses that any charter or employer-led means of reducing workplace bullying is purely dependent on the goodwill of the company to implement such measures effectively.
The report also draws attention to the fact that the existing legislature under which the Labour Court operates and through which it can make recommendations regarding cases of workplace bullying is not legally enforceable. This is a loophole in the existing legislative process that can only add to the delay, length and overall expense of any attempt at seeking redress through the Labour Court. It makes little sense to empower a statutory body with the means of examining and pronouncing on certain matters unless its findings, where necessary, are enforceable.
The Task Force was drawn from the Government departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the Employment Appeals tribunal, the Equality Authority and the Health and Safety Authority; the Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Labour Court and the Labour Relations Commission.
Consultant psychologists worked with the Task Force throughout its duration and there were two other people in attendance at meetings, from the Health and Safety Authority and from the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College, Dublin.
An analysis of the work of the Irish Equality Authority
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August 18, 2005
Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying published
The Minister for Labour Affairs, Mr Tony Killeen has today (Wednesday 17th August 2005) published the report of the expert advisory group on workplace bullying. The Group was established a year ago with terms of reference to advise and report to the Minister on:
- - the effectiveness of measures relating to the prevention of workplace bullying,
- - the identification of improvements in procedures; and
- - how to address the contribution made by bullying to the incidence of workplace stress.
Minister Killeen said that, “the principles laid down by the group would underpin future consideration of the issue by the Government, as anything less was not acceptable in a fair, safe and equitable workplace”.
These principles are:
- - Workplace bullying is unacceptable in all circumstances,
- - It is the responsibility of management to ensure that bullying is not tolerated at the workplace; and that
- - Incidents of bulling are adequately dealt with and brought to a fair and conclusive resolution in a timely fashion.
The group was chaired by Mr Paul J Farrell, Partner at IBM’s Business Consulting Services and was widely representative of the Social Partners, Health and Safety Authority, Equality Authority, Labour Relations Commission, National Centre for Partnership and Performance, Anti-bullying Centre at Trinity College Dublin, HR practitioners, a Solicitor and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
The Group have determined that:
- - Workplace bullying is an increasing problem. Whether this is due to an increase in the incidence of bullying or an increasing awareness of the unacceptability of bullying behaviour is not clearly demonstrable. However, the end result is the same – increased numbers of complaints, higher levels of workplace stress, great frustration with a lack of formal channels for resolving such complaints and an increased burden on all parties to resolve disputes.
- - Workplace bullying is not a “normal” industrial relations issue.
- - Existing measures to tackle the problem are insufficient.
- - Responsibility for tackling the problem is diffuse. Clarity of process and resolution is required.
- - The impact of bullying on the individual is such that immediate action on the part of employers and the State is called for.
The key recommendation of the Group is that legislation be brought forward to deal with workplace bullying. This legislation should apply to all employees in the workforce, irrespective of employment status.
In welcoming the recommendations of the Group, Minister Killeen said, “I intend to open consultations with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) and other interested parties in order to decide how best to implement the Group’s recommendations”.
The model proposed by the Group, which would require new legislation to implement, includes requirements that:
- - Procedures for dealing with incidents of bullying at the workplace be a mandatory requirement in the safety statements of all employers,
- - Failing resolution of complaints through an employer’s normal dispute resolution procedures, the matter may be referred to the Labour Relations Commission and a Rights Commissioner; and
- - If a case is still not resolved it may be referred to either the Labour Court or the Employment Appeals Tribunal for a final determination, which should be enforceable.
Minister Killeen added, “Following the consultation process with the Social Partners and other interested parties, I intend to bring forward legislative proposals to Government. In the meantime, I also intend to implement the Group’s recommendation to conduct a follow up survey on workplace bullying which is similar to the survey conducted for the last report on this subject, published in 2001”.
* The last report on the prevention of workplace bullying was published in 2001 under the auspices of the Health and Safety Authority. The many recommendations of the report were implemented, i.e.:
- - Codes of Practice were formulated and published under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, Industrial Relations Act 1990, and Employment Equality Act 1998.
- - The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) was given overall responsibility for providing a coordinated response, and
- - The HSA set up an anti-bullying response unit, which included an organisational psychologist.
A study commissioned for the 2001 report found that in aggregate 7% of persons claimed to have experienced bullying at the workplace. This percentage would mean a total of 115,000 persons had encountered bullying at some stage. Broken down, the numbers were 52,000 male and 63,000 female.
The study for the 2001 report also showed that the nature of the job and of the organisation impacts on peoples perceptions and experiences of bullying:
- - The self employed are less likely than employees to be bullied,
- - Temporary and casual workers are more likely to experience bullying than those with permanent contracts,
- - Those working in Public Administration and Education are more likely to be bullied than those in any other economic sector,
- - Workers in larger organisations, with more than 20 employees, are more likely to be bullied than those working in smaller organisations,
- - Those who have experienced organisational change in the workplace, in terms of the appointment of new management, corporate reorganisation, or the adoption of new technology, are more likely to experience bullying.
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