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Minister Fahey announces establishment of Expert Advisory Group on Bullying and the Resulting Stress in the Workplace

The Minister for Labour Affairs, Mr Frank Fahey TD, today (Monday 16th August 2004), announced the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group on Bullying and the resulting Stress in the Workplace.

The Expert Advisory Group, which will be chaired by Mr Paul J Farrell, Partner, Business Consulting Services, IBM Ireland, will report to the Minister report within 3 months of its initial meeting in early September.

[See full membership and Terms of Reference in Note for Editors attached].

Making the announcement Minister Fahey said: "for some time I have been concerned at the loss of workdays, ill-health effects, including stress, the workplace difficulties and general dysfunctional work cultures which bullying and the resulting stress is causing. The report of the Expert Group, which I have announced today, will provide the information on the best way forward to tackle the problem".

"Since 2001 when the Report of the Task Force on Bullying was launched, a number of positive things have happened" said the Minister. "While the establishment of the Bullying Response Unit in the Health and Safety Authority, the development of a Dignity in the Workplace charter and the introduction of codes of practice as well as the establishment of an advisory committee on workplace bullying in the Health and Safety Authority, represent substantial progress from where we were in the 1990s, we now need to take stock of where we are and consider introducing preventative practices and procedures to address the challenges which have arisen for those dealing with the fallout of bullying on a daily basis" the Minister added.

"I want the experts to make recommendations to identify effective responses to bullying so as to produce tangible improvements in workplaces", Minister Fahey concluded.

Note for Editors

Membership of the Expert Advisory Group on Bullying and the Resulting Stress in the Workplace.

Chairman:

 

Members:

Mr Paul J Farrell, Partner, Business Consulting Services, IBM Ireland,

 

Mr Brian Montague, Director of Group Human Resources, Eircom Ltd

Ms Maura Harte, Employee Support Manager, HR Department, Western Health Board

Mr Jarleth McInerney, Solicitor

Professor Mona O’Moore, Anti Bullying Centre, Trinity College Dublin

Ms Barbara Cashen, Employment Equality Authority

Ms Marie Corcoran

Mr Kevin Walsh

Ms Marie Rock, HSA Board Member

Ms Louise O’Donnell, HSA Board Member

Mr Fergus Whelan, Industrial Officer, ICTU

Mr Peter Flood, Assistant Director of Social Policy, IBEC

Ms Patricia Murray, Org. Psychologist/Inspector, Health and Safety Authority

Mr Seamus Doherty, Labour Relations Commission

Mr Martin Lynch, D/ETE

The Secretary to the Group will be Ms Sinéad Quinn of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE EXPERT ADVISORY GROUP ON WORKPLACE BULLYING

The terms of reference of the Group are to advise and report to Minister Fahey within 3 months 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 and its impact on health

Background

A Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying was established in September 1999 to identify the size of the problem of bullying in the workplace and the sectors most at risk and to develop practical programmes and strategies to prevent workplace bullying.

The Task Force examined the existing legislation on industrial relations, employment equality, protection and health and safety issues. The Task Force also invited submissions from the public and hosted workshops nationally. The Task Force decided that the existing legislation is comprehensive in its application and no new legislation was proposed. Its report made a number of Recommendations.

The Recommendations, which were subsequently implemented, were:

  • that the Health and Safety Authority should be designated as the central co-ordinating State Agency, a role now preformed by the Health and Safety Authority's Anti Bullying response Unit (ABRU).
  • that an Advisory Committee on Workplace Bullying be established to report to the Health and Safety Authority Board. That Committee was established with representation from the relevant State Agencies, Government Departments and the Social Partners That committee met its remit of delivering the other Task Force recommendations, which included:
  • that a Dignity in the Workplace Charter be printed and disseminated. Such a Charter has been developed and has been endorsed by the ICTU, IBEC and CIF. The Dignity in the Workplace Charter, has been widely distributed by the Health and Safety Authority and it has afforded many businesses the opportunity to make a valuable public commitment to the principal of creating and maintaining a workplace in which the right to dignity at work of all workers is respected;
  • that three Codes of Practice on Workplace Bullying and Harassment should be introduced under the three relevant pieces of primary legislation, that is, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 and the Employment Equality Act, 1998. These Codes of Practice, one of the most important and key elements in the overall strategy to deal with workplace bullying and harassment were launched in 2002.

Who currently deals with workplace bullying at state level?

There are three State Agencies who are now, depending on the specific nature of the issue, in a position to offer advice and assistance to both employers and employees in relation to workplace bullying and harassment. These are the Health and Safety Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Equality Authority (harassment under the 9 grounds only

1
The 9 grounds for discrimination - which is the remit of the Equality Authority - are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, age, race, religious belief, membership of the travelling community. These are the only criterion which that Agency act upon should harassment result from a person being a member of either or any of those categories.
) . The individual Codes of Practice are within the remit of those State Agencies. They act as a reference point for the Agencies in offering advice and assistance to both employers and employees and are also a source of information in providing guidelines to business practitioners on arrangements and procedures in establishing bullying prevention policies.


Both employers and employees have duties and responsibilities in regard to combating workplace bullying. As the Task Force Report stated "central to the concept of an effective workplace is the commitment of management and workforce to develop and maintain an atmosphere in which the dignity of each individual is respected".

The Health and Safety Authority's "Code of Practice for the Prevention of Workplace Bullying" (2002) and Section 6 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 refers to the employer's responsibility to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the working environment is free from danger to the safety, health and welfare of the employee. Section 9 of the 1989 Act sets out duties on employees to protect their own safety, health and welfare and that of their co-workers or those who might be affected by another's actions, or omissions, while at work.

Employers must also prepare a Safety Statement under Section 12 of the 1989 Act, based on an identification of the hazards and an assessment of the risks to safety and health at the place of work to which the Statement relates. In preparing a Safety Statement, an identification of hazards and a risk assessment must be carried out in relation to the existence of workplace bullying.

The Authority's Code of Practice points out that -

"The preparation and implementation of an effective Anti-Bullying Policy is necessary so as to ensure that, should bullying occur, there are procedures in place, supported by management, to deal with it."

It further advises that -

"A policy dealing with the prevention of workplace bullying should be produced following consultation with the employee representatives. It should be written, dated and signed at senior management level and updated when appropriate. It should be made available to all staff and highlighted as part of the induction process. It should also be publicized among existing staff on an ongoing basis. Reference should also be made to the Anti-Bullying Policy in the Safety Statement."

The Anti-Bullying Unit of the Health and Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority's anti-bullying unit, was set up in 2001 in response to the Recommendations of the task force on bullying and it concentrates on ensuring that organisations have an anti-bullying policy in place. It also assists those who do not have an adequate anti-bullying policy, to up-grade what they have, to bring it in line with the Authority's "Code of Practice for the Prevention of Workplace Bullying" and the Labour Relations Commission's (LRC) "Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace". The unit staff have found that implementation of the policy is an area where difficulties arise and options to remedy this are required.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority indicate a 100 per cent increase in enquiries to the unit in 2003. These include calls and letters from persons alleging bullying, from persons accused of bullying, from employers, human resource professionals, trade unions, solicitors and relatives of bullying victims.

What is needed now

The Minister for Labour Affairs is now anxious to build on the work already done in order to deal with gaps in the current regime. The biggest gap relates to getting a fair, consistent system available to all where bullying is an issue, without repercussion, taking appropriate action where these systems are lacking and gaining appropriate and effective closure for victims regarding allegations of bullying.

ENDS/LA 82

Last modified: 15/08/2004

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