Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

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Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

What is workplace bullying? Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker, or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety. This includes the mental or physical health of the person(s). Workplace bullying is not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. What steps should we take if bullying is identified?

Instances of bullying behaviour may be identified by the people directly involved or by people observing the behaviour. In all cases, it is recommended that people: •Record what happened, when it happened, whether it has happened before, how often and who was involved or around at the time.

  • Record their own understanding of the situation and accept that different people legitimately have different interpretations or recollections of the same events.
  • Take appropriate action in accordance with an established policy – this may mean addressing the issue directly with the other person, encouraging people to take appropriate action, reporting the matter informally to HR or a senior manager, or making a formal bullying complaint. What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour or conduct of a sexual nature that causes offence, humiliation or intimidation of the victim. The obligation not to sexually harass others applies to all workplace participants and is not only limited to direct employees of an employer. Included in this wide category of workplace participants are fellow employees, contract workers, commission agents, partners and job applicants. What can we do in our organisation to prevent sexual harassment? The best way to control sexual harassment risks is to eliminate the factors that can cause it. The following steps should be considered as a minimum:
  • Managing the risks in the work environment;
  • Developing a workplace sexual harassment policy;
  • Developing effective complaints resolution procedures;
  • Providing information and training on workplace sexual harassment; and
  • Encouraging reporting of workplace sexual harassment incidents by those affected or those who witness them. You should implement all of these control measures, as far as reasonably practicable. What is the best way for an individual to deal with sexual harassment? Instances of sexual harassment may be identified by those directly involved or by observers. In all cases, people should:
  • Record what happened, when, whether it has happened before, how often and who was involved or around at the time;
  • Record their own understanding of the situation and accept different people legitimately have different interpretations/recollections of the same events; and
  • Take appropriate action.

What is vicarious liability? Vicarious liability means that a person or company is held directly liable for someone else’s actions. Employers need to be mindful that they can be held responsible for the actions of others and remain vigilant to risks of bullying or harassment in the workplace to avoid potential liability.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the August 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘AHRI:ASSIST’. 

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