19/08/2005

Minister publishes report of expert advisory group on workplace bullying

The Republic of Ireland's Minister for Labour Affairs Tony Killeen has published the report of the expert advisory group on workplace bullying.

The group was set up a year ago with terms of reference to advise and report to the Minister on three main areas:
  • The effectiveness of measures relating to the prevention of workplace bullying;
  • The identification of improvements in procedures;
  • The identification of improvements in procedures;
  • How to address the contribution made by bullying to the incidence of workplace stress.
Commenting on the report 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;
  • Incidents of bulling are adequately dealt with and brought to a fair and conclusive resolution in a timely fashion.
Among the expert group's main findings are that workplace bullying is an increasing problem and that existing measures to tackle the problem are in many cases insufficient.

However, the report stated that whether this was 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.

The key recommendation of the Group is that legislation apply to all employees in the workforce, irrespective of employment status, should be brought forward to deal with workplace bullying.

Minister Killeen said he intended 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 would require new legislation to implement procedures for dealing with incidents of bullying through an employer’s normal dispute resolution procedures with the possibility of referral to the Labour Court or the Employment Appeals Tribunal for an enforceable determination.

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.

(SP)

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