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AIRM January Seminar Risk Manager

By Ian Davis

Legal update on bullying, harassment & stress in the workplace Maura Connolly, Head of Employment and Employee Benefit Group, Eugene F. Collins, Solicitors opened our 2011 seminar schedule, providing attendees with a legal update on bullying, harassment and stress in the workplace. Since the enactment of the Health Safety and Welfare At Work Act 2005, which made specific reference to these psychosocial risks, employers and stakeholders have come under increasing pressure to put in place the necessary policies and procedures for managing these risks. Citing legislation, explaining the judicial process and discussing settled court cases, our guest speaker gave a practical insight into how that task may be approached. Maura also outlined the various options are available to employers to determine their duties, such; to resolving or escalating complaints through mediation for example.

to be acting “in furtherance of their work”. A recent court case involved an employer who was found liable for discriminatory remarks made to an employee at a Christmas party. To ensure that employers have sufficiently robust and comprehensive practices and procedures are in place Maura outlined key aspects for consideration:

From a practical perspective the seminar also clarified the differences between bullying and harassment, which can be a source of confusion for safety practitioners. Harassment is characterised as a single discriminatory act suffered by a “protected grouping” as defined under the Employment Equality Acts, such as on grounds of their gender, age, religious belief, sexual orientation and so on. In contrast bullying must be characterised by repeated inappropriate verbal or physical behaviour that demeans the individual. Of particular relevance to employers is the need to ensure safeguards are put in place outside of work in a social setting where employees are deemed

5. Provide HR support for resolving allegations. This resource can be either in-house or extend to conferring with Human Resource Specialist Consultant or retained legal counsel

1. Review systems – introduce dignity at work policy and implement it with training as required 2. Carry out a risk assessment considering work systems and workforce composition that may be a source of confrontation 3. Ensure that the IT usage and communication policy is adequate 4. Train managers – from raising their awareness of the risks to conducting performance appraisals

6. Keep work pressures and work hours under review 7. Provide some form of employee assistance programme to assist with personal issues 8. Allow employees an effective “voice” and a method by which employees can refer grievances 9. Develop a bullying and harassment policy and ensure that it works and is understood. The Health and Safety Authority and the Equality Authority have produced a code of practice dealing with bullying and harassment respectively, that members may find of interest. Members can also download the seminar by visiting the AIRM web site at Maura Connolly, Eugene F. Collins, Solicitors

Geraldine Dempsey, Ian Davis & Maura Connolly


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Risk Manager Magazine Spring 2011  

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