Cyberbullying addressed in new Anti-Bullying Code of Practice

Gemma O'Connor

February 16 2021

A new code of practice on workplace bullying came into effect in Ireland at the end of 2020.

The development of this new code of practice was instigated by the government at the end of 2019. The Health and Safety Authority and Workplace Relations Commission have since worked together to create a unified code.

This 'Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work' (the Code) encompasses both employment law and health & safety compliance and repeals the two separate codes that were previously in place.

Preventing and resolving bullying in the workplace

The Code provides employers, employees, and their representatives with guidance when addressing and resolving issues around workplace bullying.

Cyberbullying

The Code specifically refers to the risk of cyberbullying reflecting the greater prevalence of online workplace communication tools and the scope for their abuse by bullies…. "Bullying activities involve actions and behavioural patterns, directly or indirectly, spoken and/or written and could include the use of cyber or digital means for the goal of bullying."

Contact person

The Code highlights the benefit of appointing a ‘Contact Person’ to act as the first point of contact for those reporting a bullying case. Appointing someone to this kind of role often leads to swifter resolutions. It’s a supportive role, whereby the Contact Person simply listens and offers guidance. They may also direct affected employees on business policies and procedures. That’s where their involvement ends however, as the Contact Person shouldn’t have any involvement in the investigation of complaints.

Appointing a Contact Person might not be feasible for all businesses. But, where it is appropriate, the person should be carefully selected and trained.

Introduction of a secondary informal process

The Code also advises employers to implement a ‘secondary informal process’. This process should be made available if the initial informal process fails to resolve the matter or if it’s deemed unsuitable. The Code outlines how to manage an informal process, a secondary informal process, a formal process, and a right of appeal.

The Code also acknowledges that certain smaller organisations may need external assistance ensuring that employees can exercise their right of appeal…… “micro organisations will need to consider at the outset of the formal process how they would manage a request for appeal and this may require outside independent support.”

Conclusion

Employers who fail to follow a code of practice are not guilty of an offence. But, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Labour Court, and civil courts can rely on provisions contained in a code of practice if they’re relevant to an issue that arises in litigation.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to review your existing anti-bullying policies and to incorporate the most up to date advice.

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