Month: March 2014

Legislation to Protect Workers against Workplace Bullying in other Countries

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Legislation to Protect Workers against Workplace Bullying in other Countries

Over the next few weeks, this blog is going to look at the protection workers have in other countries against workplace bullying. Hopefully it will raise questions as to why workers in the UK cannot be afforded the same protection, especially as many researches has shown that workplace bullying is a huge drain on our economy in terms of financial and human costs, already highlighted previously in this blog. The link in this blog is a video of  legislation introduced in Ontario in Canada.

Below is text taken from  showing how legisaltion in France deals with workplace bullying.

Employer’s Liability for Bullying
Under recent case law, the French Supreme Court held that an employer’s obligation includes preventing bullying; thus rendering employers liable for the bullying conduct of their employees. This liability is not diminished by the implementation of preventative measures. A French employer may also face civil liability for workplace bullying under French contract law. Under French civil law, all contracts must be performed in good faith and this requirement equally applies to employment contracts. Accordingly, if an employee suffers an adverse employment action related to bullying behavior, that employee may bring a contract claim for wrongful termination. Additionally, if an employee resigns because he was subject to workplace bullying, the employee may argue his resignation amounts to unfair termination on the part of the employer and be awarded compensation.

Damage Awards
In a 2012 decision, the French Supreme Court decided that an employee can claim damages on two fronts when he is the victim of bullying : (1) for breach by the employer of his obligation to take measures to prevent bullying in the workplace; and (2) for the acts of bullying themselves. In the 2012 decision, the court awarded a bully-victim employee 5,000 € on the first ground and 25,000 € on the second ground. In the case at hand, the victim suffered from a deleterious climate in a department and intimidations to an extent which led her to go on a sick leave and ultimately be recognized as unfit for work on a permanent basis. If the bully-victim’s employment contract is also terminated as a result of or related to the bullying conduct, the employer may be liable for unfair termination. Damages for unfair termination are often a multiplier of the monthly salary of the employee, which can easily reach twenty-four months of salary continuation. French courts may also award non-pecuniary damages in bullying cases. For example, the court may order the employer to display a unfavorable decision about bullying in the workplace as well as in newspapers (article L.1155-2 of the French labor Code).

 No Retaliation in Case of Whistleblowing or Legal Proceedings

In order to protect the employees and to promote the reporting of bullying, the French Labor Code provides that employees who suffer, refuse to undergo, or report bullying cannot be sanctioned, terminated or discriminated against (art. L. 1152-2 and L. 1152-3 of the French Labor Code). The prohibition of bullying entails all disciplinary measures, including termination of the employment contract, is null and void.


Next week, this blog will look at how Spain deals with workplace bullying.

Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers against workplace bullying in the UK


Dignity at Work Bill

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 The Dignity at Work Bill, which has been blocked by successive governments would have helped  the people described in the stories on this blog, who have been victims of workplace bullying, to have got justice.

The Bill states that it is every employee’s right to have a right to dignity at work. The employee would not be allowed to suffer harassment or bullying or any conduct which causes him to be alarmed or distressed.

Such conduct would include for example, any offensive, abusive, malicious, insulting or intimidating behaviour that has happened on more than one ocassion; unjustified criticism on more than one occasion; any punishment imposed without reasonable justification.

An employer would not be allowed to treat any employee less favourably than any other person.

If this Bill had been passed by Parliament, the victims in these stories would have been able to seek redress at the Employment Tribunal. If the complainant’s case was upheld, the complainant could have expected compensation which may have also included an award for injury to feelings.

I think it is time that this Bill was looked at again and presented to Parliament.

Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers against workplace bullying in the UK

Bullying in the Staff Room

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Kerry hated a lot of things but most of all she hated young teachers – arrogant, irresponsible and idle, the lot of them.

This was a firmly-held view that was regularly aired throughout the unpleasant year a teacher from London (teacher A) spent as Kerry’s colleague.

She had been excited about Kerry’s arrival. In her three years of teaching, the department had always been chaotic, largely because it was overseen by a gentle mother hen who was as well-meaning as she was disorganised.
Pupils were given the wrong assessment questions, data was accidentally deleted and a cloud of panic permanently hung over the muddled, over-crowded office. So when the prospect of a new second-in-charge was presented, staff were optimistic. Would Kerry be the organised, inspirational leader they had been crying out for? No.

The doom set in quickly. Department meetings were transformed from lengthy sessions of tea, biscuits and chatter into bitter diatribes about poor practice. Challenges were brushed off with an unwavering egotism – the phrase “and how would you know?” was a favourite – while new ideas were simply squashed.

Their pitch for shared planning was dismissed as laziness. The behaviour issues staff raised were nothing more than signs of their inability to control a class. When one of Kerry’s essays was moved down a grade in moderation, she was so enraged that she stormed out and drove home. Staff quickly found the way to get through was to keep quiet and try not to cry. They often failed.

When teacher A was promoted to key stage four co-ordinator, things got nasty. Teacher A, would send schemes of work to the department and receive a response moments later insisting on some fatal, idiotic flaw. She would post long-term outlines only to receive a flat-out refusal to teach ‘Of Mice And Men.’ When she proposed switching exam boards, Kerry copied the entire management team into the email calling her “a cheat”.

Kerry was pushing Teacher A, and she was stumbling. She started to doubt every decision she made. She had always been well organised, but she began triple checking the most minute of details with Kerry’s voice ringing in her mind. She would lay awake in bed with my heart racing because a meeting was scheduled for the next day.

Kerry would refuse to share a worksheet as it was her “intellectual property”. She would interrupt the headteacher during professional development sessions to point out spelling errors.

Things were becoming more and more difficult. On the advice of her union rep, she started to keep a diary of their interactions.

• May 2. Kerry told me to “read the f…… mark scheme”.
• May 21. Kerry said I was “disgusting” when I asked about payment for weekend revision classes.
• May 30. A year 10 pupil said Kerry had been telling her class that I don’t know what I’m doing.

Teacher A was assertive and assured in every other aspect of her life, and yet she allowed Kerry to kick the confidence right out of her.

Another (recently promoted) colleague was suffering the same treatment, so they took their concerns to the head of department. She shrugged them off with the phrase: “That’s just Kerry”. When they escalated the problem to management, they insisted the issue was our all-female department. The deputy head suggested employing a man to “sort you ladies out”.

So they took the only sensible option, and left. Six of their 10-person department resigned that year. A poor girl who’d been Kerry’s mentee had been told she’d failed an observation in front of her class. Another had ended up in tears when Kerry followed her, shouting, into the car park.

“As we vented, at long last, there was a sense that if we had come together before, organised ourselves better, we could have taken her on. But we were inexperienced, intimidated and, ultimately, drained from the day-to-day battles we had to fight
It’s tempting to try and salvage some great significance from the experience. I wish I could say Kerry taught me a useful lesson about myself or the profession, but all I limped away with was disbelief at how hostile a workplace can be. To anyone in the same position, I can only offer my version of the 3Rs – record it, report it, and if that doesn’t work, run.”

Taken from the Guardian, teacher network 16th November 2013

Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers against workplace bullying in the UK