Summary of Legislation and Policies enacted by counties other than the UK to protect Workers against Workplace Bullying

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This blog summarises the approach taken by countries other than the UK to the issue of workplace bullying. This supplements the previous blogs which have looked at Germany, Spain, Sweden and France.


The following is taken from ‘International laws / When the abuser goes to work’

NORWAY. In 2004, Norway’s Prime Minister launched a campaign against workplace bullying as part of the country’s Tripartite Agreement on an Inclusive Workplace.


THE NETHERLANDS:  Since 1994, employers in The Netherlands have been legally obliged through the Working Conditions Act to protect their employees from psychological aggression in the workplace and their negative consequences, including mobbing/bullying.

LUXEMBOURG:  Luxembourg signed its first collective agreement on moral harassment in 2001.  More recently, in 2009, Luxembourg published a labour regulation  that provides a general definition of the term ‘moral harassment’ that is not limited to harassment based on discrimination. The regulation provides that:

“Harassment occurs when a person belonging to a company commits wrongful, deliberate and repeated acts against a worker or manager of the company with the purpose or effect of:  violating his or her rights or human dignity; altering his or her circumstances or working conditions or compromising his or her professional future by creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment; or  affecting his or her physical or psychological health.”

TURKEY: An employer must protect all employees from psychological abuse in the workplace pursuant to an amendment to Article 417 of the Debts law passed by the Turkish parliament in January 2011.  The law makes it an offense to commit certain acts or fail to take action to prevent the commitment of acts such as verbal insults, belittling, and intentional isolation.

AUSTRALIA:  Effective July 1, 2013, workers who believe they have been bullied can complain  to the federal Fair Work Commission (FWC) , the nation’s national workplace relations tribunal. The FWC will deal with the matter as a priority.  The FWC can issue an  order in response to  the complaint  and/or refer the matter to the relevant state safety regulator. Perpetrators face civil penalties and fines ( up to approximately $34,000 American dollars).  Bullying” is defined as “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”  It does not include “reasonable management practices including performance management.”


BELGIUM: Belgium enacted legislation against moral harassment in 2002 which obliges companies  to:

  • set up an internal procedure to handle harassment complaints by employees;
  • establish a plan for preventing the occurrence of violence and harassment at work;
  • appoint a prevention adviser.
  • Failure to develop a prevention policy or to assign a prevention advisor is punishable by criminal prosecution (imprisonment of up to one year) or administrative penalties and fines against  the employer.

The following is taken from the Seminar on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, JILPT Report 2013



In the Work and Health Survey by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the prevalence of workplace bullying has been assessed every third year since 1997. In the survey, bullying is defined “Psychological violence and bullying at work means negative, oppressing and insulting treatment that is continuous and repetitive.”


Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002) came into operation on 1.1. 2003, and includes a special section on harassment and other inappropriate behaviour at work. The section on harassment is reactive by nature. Harassment and other inappropriate treatment are also mentioned in the general obligations for employees.(inEnglish:

The Act obliges the employer/manager/supervisor to take action when he/she receives information about inappropriate treatment and bullying. If the perpetrator is the supervisor  it is his/her superior who is to take action to investigate and resolve the situation.

If the employer doesn‘t take action the employee is advised to contact occupational safety and health authorities/ inspectors. The Occupational Safety and Health Act has been in force for ten years, and most employers are nowadays aware of the “Harassment” section, and their duties on the bases of the Act. Also safety and health representatives, shop stewards, occupational health care personnel, and most employees are familiar with the section on harassment and inappropriate behaviour.


The section on harassment in the new Occupational Safety and Health Act (1.1.2003) has activated organizations to develop and implement policies and guidelines for workplace bullying.

Safety and health inspectors discuss inappropriate behaviour and harassment always when they are carrying out an inspection in a workplace. Inspectors ask if any cases have taken place in the organization, about the existence of policy and procedures for inappropriate behavior and bullying, and about training on harassment and inappropriate behaviour. If there is no policy in place in the organization, the inspector advises the organization to draw up one. In inspections, a survey called VALMERI is used which includes also a question on harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

In the Finnish Quality of Work Life Survey 2008, the measures taken to eliminate or prevent workplace bullying at the workplace the most commonly observed measures were:

1) good treatment or elimination of bullying had been taken into consideration in

supervisory activity (45% of respondents),

2) prevention of bullying had been taken into account in occupational health and safety (39%), and

3) a set of rules for good treatment had been drawn up (33%) (Lehto & Sutela 2009).

Next week the blog will look at how these countrys’ laws and policies differ to the UK and the reasons given why UK politicians haven’t agreed to pass the Dignity at Work Bill even though it was passed by the House of Lords.

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


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