Employers Policy Documents Relating to Bullying

Employers should have up-to-date policy documents

Bullying in any form should not be accepted or tolerated in any workplace. An employer can increase the visibility of their attitude to bullying by drawing up a policy document outlining

  • What bullying is,
  • That bullying is not acceptable
  • That the organisation’s values do not support or tolerate such behaviour.

The policy document should outline steps to be taken both informally, including some mediation if possible, and formally, for those who feel they have a legitimate bullying complaint.

Policy Document

The employer should make the policy document clear and unambiguous and ensure it is signed and policy statements are up-to-date and in operation.  The employer should be intolerant of workplace bullying and behaviour which infringes an individual‘s right to dignity at work.  

  • Having the policy is not enough:
  • policies must be the result of consultation with staff,
  • they must be known to staff
  • they must be implemented when complaints are made.

Anti-bullying policy document

One of the first steps in the prevention of workplace bullying is the drawing up of a written Anti Bullying Policy. This should be drawn up in accordance with the Health and Safety Authority‘s Code of Practice on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work, the Workplace Relations Commission‘s Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace' and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s/Workplace Relations Commission’s Codes of Practice on Prevention of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, where harassment under the nine grounds identified in the document is the issue. Bullying should also be referred to in the safety statement as a hazard and should

  • state the management ethos or attitude to the issue - a commitment to dignity in the workplace.
  • clearly outline what bullying is
  • clearly outline the step by step procedure for managing complaints
  • identify an informal and formal process, depending on each complaint

The Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work 2021 can be used as a template for this 

The policy document must comply with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, and reflect the employer’s reasonable attempt to manage workplace activities so as not to allow improper behaviour at work.  The HSA's Bullying Code of Practice is a useful template as a standard in terms of procedures and fairness criteria.

The policy should be made available to staff, be visible and all individuals whether permanent or temporary should have access to a copy. Organisations should raise awareness of the issue by inclusion in staff bulletins, training, at recruitment stage and using any other appropriate method.

Investigating complaints

Not all allegations of bullying require investigation - Where the allegation is not disputed then an investigation of fact is not required however arbitration may be required where there is a different interpretation of the meaning of actions and the justification for them in order to determine which perspective is more correct.

Where there is a distinct difference in what each party says occurred then an independent investigation may be necessary. Independent investigations should fact find, ensuring that where witnesses are interviewed, such interviews, are carried out without leading the witness. Complaints should be dealt with in a confidential manner and as speedily as possible maintaining a fair approach and without reprisals for the complainant.

Natural justice applies and accused persons are presumed innocent until, and if, found to have a case to answer.

Accused persons will find the position they are in embarrassing and difficult and they should be offered some support from the employer throughout the process. Confidentiality, as far as possible, should be safeguarded to preserve reputations throughout the process until a finding has been reached.