Bullying – I want to make a complaint

What legal obligations does my employer have in relation to the prevention of bullying?

As an employee, do I have any legal obligations relating to the prevention of bullying in the workplace?

I feel I am being bullied – what should I do?

What is the ‘informal route’?

What is mediation?

Should I opt for mediation instead of a formal investigation to resolve my complaint?

What is a formal investigation?

Do I need to put my complaint in writing?

I feel I am being bullied and there is no anti-bullying/Dignity at Work policy in my organisation – what should I do?

I am not satisfied with the outcome of the formal investigation that was conducted into my complaint of bullying – what should I do?


What legal obligations does my employer have in relation to the prevention of bullying?


Your employer has a duty of care under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to do everything it can, as far as reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety, health and welfare of its employees including the reasonable prevention of bullying and stress-related injuries in the workplace. The Health and Safety Authority also introduced a Code of Practice on the Prevention and Resolution of Workplace Bullying 2007 which is aimed at preventing and dealing with workplace bullying.

The Act now places a clear obligation on employers to:

  • Prepare a risk assessment which might address the risk of bullying in the workplace
  • Set down preventative measures necessary to manage the system of work so as to protect against bullying

In addition, the HSA Code of Practice recommends that, at a minimum, your employer should have:

  • A Dignity at Work (anti-bullying) policy in place
  • That the policy should identify clear procedures, both informal and formal, for dealing with complaints of bullying in the workplace

However, it is not sufficient in itself to have the policy in place. Your employer must also take reasonable measures to:

  • Raise awareness by providing appropriate training and development on the Dignity at Work policy for all employees but particularly for line managers and supervisors
  • Ensure the policy is effectively communicated to all employees
  • Ensure that bullying complaints are dealt with speedily and transparently
  • Treat bullying complaints with fairness, sensitivity, respect and confidentiality for all parties concerned
  • Minimise the risk to the health of the employees by providing support and assistance throughout the process and reviewing and monitoring the environment afterwards

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As an employee, do I have any legal obligations relating to the prevention of bullying in the workplace?


Yes, all employees have a duty to behave and conduct themselves so as to respect the right of employers and other employees to dignity, courtesy and respect at work and not to bully them.


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I feel I am being bullied – What are my rights?

All employees have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work and not to have their safety, health or welfare put at risk through bullying by the employer, other employees or non-employees such as clients, customers, sub-contractors, business contacts and so on. If you feel you are being bullied, the internal procedures for dealing with such complaints are generally detailed in your company’s Dignity at Work policy. These procedures must comply with the general principles of natural justice and fair procedures which include:

  • That your complaint or grievance is fairly examined and processed
  • That the details of your complaint are put to the employee concerned
  • That the employee concerned is given the opportunity to respond fully to any such allegations or complaints
  • That you are given the opportunity to avail of the right to be represented during the procedure
  • That you have the right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned, taking into account any representations made by, or on behalf of, you and any other relevant or appropriate evidence, factors or circumstances

In addition, you have the right:

  • Not to be victimised for making a complaint of bullying in good faith. However, if the complaint is found to be vexatious or malicious you will be subject to your employer’s disciplinary procedures and associated sanctions
  • To be treated with fairness, sensitivity, dignity and respect throughout the process
  • To confidentiality – a complaint of bullying is both serious and sensitive and all parties involved in the complaint and the resolution process are bound by confidentiality (that includes you, the person against whom the complaint is made, any mediator, investigator(s) or HR personnel involved)

If the matter proceeds to a formal investigation, there are specific guidelines with which the investigation process should comply. These should also be detailed in the procedure set out in your Dignity at Work policy.


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I feel I am being bullied – what should I do?


If you feel you are being bullied at work then you should immediately

  1. Seek help – speak to your manager, your Designated Contact Person, a member of the HR team or any other senior manager you can trust. Apart from providing you with initial support, this person can also help you understand if what you are experiencing constitutes bullying.
  2. Read your Dignity at Work policy and become familiar with it and the procedures contained therein. The procedures will suggest a number of ways of dealing with the complaint, normally the informal route, mediation or a formal investigation.
  3. Consider the events objectively– Is there evidence that:
    1. The behaviour you experienced was inappropriate?
    2. The behaviour could reasonably be regarded as undermining your right to dignity at work?
    3. The behaviour was repeated – a once-off incident may be an affront to your dignity at work but it does not constitute bullying?
    4. The behaviour was not reasonable and essential performance management?
    5. If you remain of the opinion that you are being bullied, follow the procedures outlined in your Dignity at Work policy and seek any advice that you deem appropriate [union, medical, legal, our WorkplaceBullying Team], the costs of which will be at your own expense.
    6. At all times seek any available support from within your organisation; for example there may be an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
    7. Remember confidentiality on your part is critical. The other party is presumed innocent until otherwise proven.

WorkplaceBullying offers affordable, expert and impartial advice on how to proceed with your complaint as well as practical help should you need it.  Contact us


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What is the ‘informal route’?


The informal route is where the you or someone on your behalf (a Designated Contact Person, Manager etc) confronts the person you feel is bullying you and explains to them the behaviour that is causing offense to you and requests his/her to stop that behaviour. This simple route is often the most effective way of countering the problem.


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What is mediation?


Mediation is when a neutral third party facilitates a conversation between the parties in dispute and helps them find a resolution in a safe and equitable way. Mediation facilitates the resolution of the issue through communication and negotiation between the parties and promotes voluntary decision-making as a means to a mutually acceptable solution.

Because mediation has a very high success rate and can resolve matters speedily and confidentially without recourse to a formal investigation it should, where possible, be attempted before moving to formal investigation. However, mediation does require the voluntary consent of both parties to engage in the process and must be carried out by a qualified mediator practiced in dealing with bullying at work issues.

Our mediators are fully accredited and we have a 98% success rate in workplace mediations. Click here to find out more on mediation and our mediation services.


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Should I opt for mediation instead of a formal investigation to resolve my complaint?


Yes, you should seriously consider mediation. Mediation is a very effective mechanism for resolving workplace conflicts, so much so, that it has been recently elevated to statute with the introduction of the Mediation Bill 2012. Conflicts are usually resolved more rapidly through mediation than a formal investigation, however, mediation may not suit all conflict situations; for example, where there is a serious power imbalance between conflicting parties or where one party is not willing to participate in the process mediation cannot occur.

Our mediators are fully accredited and have a 98% success rate so don’t hesitate to contact us for help if you would like to try mediation or indeed for advice in choosing the best route for resolution of your complaint. Click here for more on mediation or Contact us.


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What is a formal investigation?


An investigator (internal or external) will be appointed who should be impartial, have the appropriate training and experience and should be familiar with your Dignity at Work procedures. The objective of an investigation is to establish whether the complaint falls within the definition of bullying at work and if so, whether or not, on the balance of probabilities, the behaviours complained of occurred. Both you and the person or persons you have complained about and any other relevant witnesses will be interviewed in order for the investigator to ascertain the facts and reach a conclusion. The findings are provided in a written report.

The investigators must follow the procedures set down in your Dignity at Work policy which in turn must comply with the HSA Code of Practice and the principles of natural justice and fair procedures.

What can WorkplaceBullying do for people in respect of formal investigations? Our Team of Experts can help you at any and every stage of the investigation process. For more on our Services for Employees.


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Do I need to put my complaint in writing?


If you opt to address the matter informally then it may not be necessary to document your complaint. However, we advise you to put your complaint in writing and be specific with regard to your description of the behaviours complained of, the dates, times and details of witnesses in case the complaint goes further and a written record is required.

WorkplaceBullying offers assistance with putting your complaint in writing. Contact us today.


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I feel I am being bullied and there is no anti-bullying/Dignity at Work policy in my organisation – what should I do?


You should immediately:

  1. Approach the most senior person available to you (perhaps your manager, your HR manager, the CEO) and notify them of the absence of a policy and seek their help. Your employer has a legal obligation to have a policy in place.
  2. Read the definition of bullying provided in the Education section which will help you understand if what you are experiencing constitutes bullying.  The 2007 Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Code of Practice provides practical information on the processes that should be in place in your organisation.
  3. Consider the events objectively– Is there evidence that:If you are still of the opinion that you are being bullied, contact a member of the WorkplaceBullying team to assist you in making an informed decision on how to best progress your complaint. Click here for our contact details.
    1. The behaviour was inappropriate?
    2. The behaviour could reasonably be regarded as undermining your right to dignity at work?
    3. The behaviour was repeated – a once-off incident may be an affront to your dignity at work but it does not constitute bullying?
    4. The behaviour was not reasonable and essential performance management?
  4. And if you feel able to, confront the person who is bullying you and identify the behaviour to them and explain to them that you find it inappropriate and ask them to STOP. This is often the most effective way of countering the problem.
  5. Avail of any support mechanisms available from the company such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
  6. If your organisation fails to put a policy in place you should also contact the HSA Workplace Unit and notify them of this. They will write to your employer seeking a copy of its Dignity at Work policy. They will do this without disclosing your identity. You can also contact the HSA Workplace Contact Unit by phoning 1890 289 389 or emailing wcu@hsa.ie.

If you require assistance with how to proceed with your complaint in the absence of a policy, get in touch with a member of the WorkplaceBullying team for expert, impartial and affordable help. Contact us


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I am not satisfied with the outcome of the formal investigation that was conducted into my complaint of bullying – what should I do?


Consider carefully why you are not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation and if the procedure for investigation included an appeal stage:

  1. Refer to your Dignity at Work policy which should outline the procedure for an appeal of the investigation.
  2. Document clearly the grounds for the appeal. Perhaps some of the evidence presented by you was not considered, or you have evidence that the investigator was not impartial for example.
  3. Make sure you submit your appeal letter within the timeframe and to the person specified in the policy.

Remember, an appeal does not involve a complete re-hearing of the investigation. It will focus only on the grounds for the appeal as cited in your letter of appeal. The appeal should be heard by a party (internal or external) that has not been involved in any aspect of the initial investigation. If the person is being appointed internally, he/she should at least be at the same level of seniority as the original investigator but preferably more senior. If your company is very small and this is not feasible then the company should appoint an external person to hear the appeal.

WorkplaceBullying can help you with your appeal. Click here for more our service or get in touch today. Contact us. 

Contact a member of the WorkplaceBullying team for further information and assistance with any of the following areas

  • General advice on how to proceed with your complaint
  • Assistance with formulating your complaint
  • Advice on what to do in the absence of a policy
  • Mediation services
  • Advice and/or representation with formal investigation
  • Appeal of an investigation finding

Making a complaint of bullying can be difficult and stressful, however, rest assured that you will have the benefits of the WorkplaceBullying teams’ extensive experience and expertise on your side. Remember, we can act as your Advisor and/or Representative at any stage in the process or for the entire process. Contact us 
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