Bullying – A Complaint Made Against Me

A complaint of bullying has been made against me – what should I do?

A formal complaint has been made against me – what are my rights?

What is the ‘informal route’?

What is mediation?

Mediation has been offered as a route to resolution – should I agree to try it?

What is a formal investigation?

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?

A complaint of bullying has been made against me and there is no Dignity at Work/anti-bullying policy in my organisation. What should I do?

I am not satisfied with the outcome of the formal investigation into a bullying complaint that was made against me. What should I do?


A complaint of bullying has been made against me – what should I do?


If you have been notified that a complaint of bullying has been made against you, you should

  1. Obtain a copy of your Dignity at Work policy, read it carefully and become familiar with the policy and 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.
  2. Read the complaint carefully. Is it specific in nature? Does it cite examples of the behaviour(s) complained of, giving dates and times of the incidents? If it is not specific in nature then ask for the specifics to be provided to you.
  3. Consider the complaint objectively – Is there evidence that:
    • The behaviour complained of inappropriate
    • The behaviour could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
    • The behaviour was repeated – a once-off incident may be an affront to the complainant’s dignity at work but it does not constitute bullying.
    • The behaviour was not reasonable and essential performance management?
  4. Take the time to write down in as much detail as possible your response to the allegations. Describe the circumstances of the events, give dates and times, give the names of witnesses and retain copies of any relevant documents such as emails, notes and so on.
  5. Seek any advice that you deem appropriate  [union, medical, legal, our WorkplaceBullying Team], the costs of which will be at your own expense.
  6. Being accused of bullying can be very stressful for you and your family so seek support from your organisation in any way possible, for example there may be an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
  7. Remember, confidentiality is critical on your part.
  8. Co-operate with whatever process is determined to get a resolution. WorkplaceBullying can offer you expert and impartial help if you have been accused of bullying. Contact us

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A formal complaint has been made against me – what are my rights?


The procedures for dealing with complaints of bullying should be 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:

  • The complaint/grievance is fairly examined and processed
  • The details of any allegations or complaints are put to you
  • You are given the opportunity to respond fully to the complaint
  • You have the right to be represented during the procedure
  • 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 to:

  • Be treated with fairness, sensitivity, dignity and respect throughout the process
  • Confidentiality – an accusation of bullying is a very serious matter and all parties involved in the complaint and the resolution process (you, the complainant, mediator, investigator(s) and HR personnel for example) are bound by confidentiality

You should also be assured of:

  • The organisation’s presumption of innocence of wrongdoing on your part until the investigation is completed
  • Support as required through the process

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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What is the ‘informal route’?


The informal route is where the person making the complaint or someone on their behalf (a Designated Contact Person or their Manager for example) approaches you directly and explains to you the behaviour that they find offensive and requests you to stop that behaviour.  This simple route is often the most effective way of resolving the issue. 


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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, mediation should where possible, be attempted before moving to formal investigation. However, mediation does require the voluntary consent of both parties to 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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Mediation has been offered as a route to resolution – should I agree to try it?


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, then mediation cannot occur.

Our mediators are fully accredited and have a 98% success rate so don’t hesitate to contact WorkplaceBullying for help if you would like to try mediation or indeed for advice on whether mediation is appropriate in resolving the complaint.  Click here for more on mediation or Contact us.


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What is a formal investigation?


Where the informal route or mediation are not possible or have been unsuccessful, the formal route towards resolution will be taken.  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, 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. Read more Services – For Employees  


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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 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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A complaint of bullying has been made against me and there is no Dignity at Work/anti-bullying 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 2007 HSA Code of Practice which is very informative – it provides practical information on the processes that should be in place and will help you understand what behaviour constitutes bullying.  It is also useful to read the definition of bullying under the Education Section – click here
  3. Consider the complaint objectively– Is there evidence that:
    • The behaviour complained of was inappropriate?
    • The behaviour could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work?
    • The behaviour was repeated– a once-off incident may be an affront to the complainant’s dignity at work but it does not constitute bullying?
    • The behaviour was not reasonable and essential performance management?
    • Contact a member of the WorkplaceBullying team to assist you in making an informed decision on how to best respond to the complaint. [Click here for our contact details]
    • If your employer fails to put a policy in place you should also contact the HSA Workplace Unit and notify them of this. They will then write to your employer seeking a copy of their anti-bullying/Dignity at Work policy, without disclosing your identity. You can contact the HSA Workplace Contact Unit by calling 1890 289 389 or emailing wcu@hsa.ie

If you require assistance with how to respond to the complaint in the absence of a policy, contact WorkplaceBullying for expert, impartial and affordable help. Contact us


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I am not satisfied with the outcome of the formal investigation into a bullying complaint that was made against me. 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 make an appeal or respond to an appeal made against a decision in your favour. Click here to find out how we can help you with your appeal.  

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

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

We understand the stress an allegation of bullying can cause you.  The very best way to respond is with expert information and advice from skilled professionals who are working for you.

WorkplaceBullying 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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