Bullying

Why Me?

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There are many reasons how and why bullies target others, and the reasons are consistent between different cases. There are many euphemisms used to describe bullying (e.g. firm management”) and myths used to justify it (e.g. “victims are weak”). None of these are true. Bullying often repeats because bullies target their victims for the same reasons each time. This page may answer the question, “Why do I keep getting bullied?”.

Why do people get bullied?

Bullies can act because they are jealous of their target’s status, talents, abilities, circumstances or possessions. Bullies act without integrity, and despise people who display it. Sometimes they act with no reason other than for the kick they get from realising that something they have done has provoked a reaction in their target. Making people annoyed can be a cheap source of gratification and amusement. But bullies with jobs fear exposure of their perceived shortcomings, such as inadequacy and incompetence, and these people bully not for fun but in order – they think – to survive. Competent colleagues fuel the bully’s fear that shortcomings in their capabilities will surface, so they tend to select targets who fulfil some of the criteria below.

  • Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Bullies are predatory and opportunistic. Irrespective of any other explanation, being in the wrong place at the wrong moment is the main reason.
  • Being competent:-
  •  being good at their job, often excelling;
  •   being willing to go that extra mile and expect others to do the same;
  •  being successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude;
  •  being imaginative, creative, innovative;
  •   being able to master new skills;
  •   thinking long term and seeing the bigger picture;
  •   being helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience;
  • being diligent and industrious
  • Being Popular:-
  •   with colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc;
  •  Being regarded as an expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional
  •  having a sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness
  • Having strength of character:-
  •  displaying integrity, honesty, intelligence and intellect;
  •   having a well-defined set of values that they are unwilling to compromise;
  • being trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable;
  •  a sense of fairness:
  • willingness to tackle injustice;
  •  low propensity to violence and strong forgiving streak
  •  refusing to join an established clique
  •  being sensitive (having empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance etc)
  •  being slow to anger
  •  showing independence of thought or deed
  •  refusing to become a corporate clone and drone
  • having high coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent
  • Having a vulnerability:-
  • The need to earn a living from work;
  •  being proud of one’s reputation and record;
  •  being too old or too expensive
  • finding it difficult to say no
  • low assertiveness and a need to feel valued
  • believing everyone is on the same team and working toward the same goals;
  • being too tolerant;
  •  being a perfectionist;
  •   low propensity to violence and strong forgiving streak;
  •   a tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking;
  •   high expectations of those in authority and a distaste for those who abuse their power;
  • quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty.
  • Having raised concerns
  • .. about bullying, fraud, safety or any matter where the bully feels implicated or at risk as a result.

Revenge.

The characteristics above typically apply to targets who have done nothing wrong to provoke the treatment to which they are subjected. However, some people respond to bullying with bullying. Sometimes they target their bully, effectively engaging in a fight. Revenge bullying does not require the subject of the revenge to have the sort of characteristics listed above. Some would argue that bullying in revenge is justifiable, but in absolute terms it is no less unreasonable than the behaviour that provoked it.

It is common too for a person be reasonably reprimanded for something they have done wrong, to feel the reprimand is unjustified, and to take action against the person who reprimanded them. This is a common response to whistle-blowing, but it can also happen to a manager who takes reasonable steps to address a shortcoming in a subordinate’s work or conduct, and it can happen when someone snaps in response to a bully’s efforts to provoke anger. The perpetrator of revenge bullying can lose any moral high ground they might have had at the outset, and if they persist or their response is particularly mean or damaging, they can ultimately lose their right to criticise the conduct to which they were originally subjected.

Taken from Bully On Line

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2004 Voluntary Project to Combat Workplace Bullying in UK. 10 Years Later – FAILED. Now is the time to bring in UK Legislation to Protect our Workers as in other Countries.

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Valerie Davey MP. (Lab) for Bristol West stated in 2004

“The need for the Government to be more proactive in promoting and ensuring dignity at work for all employees at every level has been reiterated from the back benches of this Chamber and the House of Lords since at least 1996……

All Members of Parliament must know through their surgeries of cases of constituents experiencing bullying at work and being unable to voice that experience and seek a resolution. When we first heard about those often desperate cases most of us were unaware of the scale of the problem….

Subsequent evidence from trade Unions confirmed that despite years of campaigning against bullying, it remains a persistent and extensive problem.”

Valerie Davey  MP went on to describe a new project that was being launched.

“The project has been launched to provide supportive advice and training to organisations that are trying to tackle bullying, train employees as counsellors, devise and promote a voluntary charter on dignity at work, promote examples of excellent employers in the UK and produce a benchmark that enables organisations to measure their success in achieving dignity at work and a “ban the bullying” pack.”

She went on to say “ I remind the Government that other European countries have followed the legislative route and I hope the work (Project)  will be compared with the work in other countries.”

Ms Davey MP hoped that the project would be enough to stamp out bullying in the workplace and therefore no need to bring in legislation. However she went on to say that if the project was not successful that Ministers would then reconsider and bring in legislation.

“-and with assurance –from the Minister that the project will be monitored and that should  good practice not prove as infectious as we all hope, the Government will reconsider the possibility of legislation and revisit the new clause or a similar provision later”

That was back in March 2004.

Ten years later the project I argue has not been successful. Surely 10 years is long enough to test out a project. Was there any monitoring? Are there any reports regarding any monitoring? I think the following links to newspaper articles over recent years reporting on workplace bullying is enough to show that ‘the project has not been successful and therefore legislation needs to be brought in, in line with other countries.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2353280/One-NHS-workers-bullied-colleagues-Managers-named-worst-offenders-increasing-workloads-toll.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-19421195

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct20/bullying-workplace-ed-balls

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/bbc-nhs-release-statements-after-4876098

http://www.wharf.co.uk/2014/05/greenwich-council-employees-st.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-27425360

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10679410/Mark-Lawson-quits-Radio-4-Front-Row-amid-bullying-furore.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27480951

http://www.bb.co.uk/news/uk-26878761

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/newsbeat-chief-rod-mckenzie-moved-after-complants-of-bullying-from-over-30-bbc-staff-9078443.html

http://www.standard.co.uk./lifestyle/london-life/tony-hall-yes-the-bbc-has-a-bullying-problem–but–were-on-top-of-it-9176511.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2576459/Fury-BBC-bully-promoted-plum-job-guilty-abuse-despite-zero-tolerance-vow.html

http://www.bbc.uk/news/uk-27434220

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20340073

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14527103

These are just a small percentage of articles I have collected from newspapers which I believe shows that the Project referred to  by Valerie Davey has not been successful.

It also must be recognised that the articles are referring to large Public Sector organisations which attracts media attention. We must not forget  the millions of workers employed in small businesses who equally suffer psychological trauma by workplace bullies but do not attract media attention.

Surely after 10 years, MP’s need to start acting again in order to bring in legislation, in line with other countries, to protect our workers and economy from the insidious  bullying that is taking place every day in organisations up and down this country.

Tell us about your experiences and opinions. Do you think the UK has a problem with Workplace Bullying? Do you think that there should be legislation to protect our workers?

Support the Campaign To Introduce Legislation To Protect Workers and our Economy Against Workplace Bullying

 

Lords arguments for and against the Dignity at Work Bill

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Lords’ arguments for and against the Dignity at Work Bill

Baroness Gibson stated in Parliament, on 27 March 2002 when she presented the Dignity at Work Bill, that the aim of the Bill was to counteract bullying at work and to enshrine good practice into law.

“The Bill attempts to be fair to both employees and employers. In an ideal world, it would not be necessary. All employers would be good ones and would already have policies and practices in place which would prevent bullying in the workplace. But this is not an ideal world and employers are not all good ones. This Bill aims to correct those who are not.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but it is only in recent years that it has been identified and rightly recognised as a workplace issue. As Angela Ishmael wrote in her excellent book, Harassment, Bullying and Violence at Work, published by the Industrial Society: As employers move towards creating and maintaining a healthy working climate as a corporate priority, bullying and its effects have leaked through the organisations like a crack in a wall”. Bullying is undoubtedly a great problem faced by many British workers. It affects all kinds of workplaces. I have known cases of bullying on the shop floor and in the office; in the voluntary sector, telecommunications, retail, catering, engineering, finance and insurance, the health service, manufacturing, universities and schools and the Prison Service. You name the workplace and bullying can be found. It is a very destructive force.

It is difficult to put a concrete figure on the number of workers bullied, but an NOP poll conducted for a TUC conference on bullying at work suggested that a staggering 5 million working people in the UK had either been bullied in the past or were currently experiencing bullying. Of course bullying does not only have an adverse effect on employees. Employers are also affected by it. Bullying at work costs businesses in employee absenteeism through ill health and lost effectiveness. Professor Cary Cooper of UMIST, an acknowledged expert in the field, has estimated that 40 million working days are lost each year because of bullying. In financial terms, this puts the cost to industry at £3 billion to £4 billion annually. On top of that, it brings to the workplace low morale, poor working relationships and a general depression of spirit. That is hardly conducive to high productivity and quality standards. Bullying blights lives and causes immense and acute suffering and stress.

In the course of the debate, we may be told that there are laws which adequately cover bullying at work. As a former trade union official, I would dispute that emphatically. In the past the UK Parliament has not focused on providing statutory protection against bullying at work. Instead it has concentrated on discrimination. That is fine when it comes to sex or race. But the laws covering sex and race do not adequately cover bullying. It is true that cases can be taken under the Sex Discrimination Act or Race Relations Act. But the great weakness here is that most cases of bullying cannot be shown to amount to sexual or racial harassment and therefore this legislation is not effective in that case.

On the face of it, the health and safety Act can be used by those facing workplace bullying. But again that Act does not specifically mention bullying. It concentrates on the, health, safety and welfare at work of all employees”— a much vaguer concept.

As I know from my years as a health and safety commissioner, the Act is rarely found to be effective for bullying cases. Indeed, because there is no specific law relating to bullying or harassment in the non-sexist or non-racist sense, the only way for an employee to proceed to an employment tribunal because of bullying is to resign from his or her work and bring a claim of breach of contract under the heading of constructive dismissal. That cannot be a just and proper way for an employee to have to proceed in this day and age.

The current laws are not only inadequate for the employee, they also expose employers to a wide range of liabilities without providing the legal tools or guidance to deal with potential bullying problems before they become serious. The existing laws do not help employers to deal with the problem of bullying in the workplace. At best they can provide only a certain financial compensation to an employee who by then has lost his or her health, job or both.

I can best illustrate the absurdity and ambivalence of the law by telling the House of the experiences of two members of my previous union. A young man and a young woman worked in a London teaching hospital. Both received appalling treatment at the hands of their male supervisor by whom they were constantly undermined and their lives made a misery. The young woman’s bullying and denigration also included unwanted sexual advances. At the same time, the supervisor embarked on a campaign to humiliate and reduce the standing of the young man by a series of mean and malevolent acts.

They both went to the same internal appeal. The young woman was held to have been sexually harassed and the young man to have been bullied. Both sustained substantial financial losses as well as suffering emotionally. The young woman was advised that she had a sex discrimination claim which she lodged and eventually settled out of court. The young man had no legal basis for a claim and received no effective remedy for his very similar experiences. He would have had to leave his job had he wished to claim constructive dismissal, as I explained earlier. I believe that that highlights graphically why a new law is needed. If the Bill had been in place, both could have presented bullying cases and both could have received their just rewards.

The Dignity at Work Bill supplements existing employment legislation enabling employers to send a clear message to all their staff that dignity at work must be respected and, if they act quickly and fairly, avoid claims and resolve issues in a way that promotes better workplace relationships and higher morale.”

Baroness Gould of Potternewtonstated in response

As my noble friend said, it covers many situations and can take many forms. It is that aspect upon which I wish to concentrate my remarks. It can cover unfair and excessive criticism, humiliation, public insults, the constantly changing or setting of unrealistic work targets, withholding information, undervaluing efforts and shouting and abusive behaviour. Bullying is a sustained form of psychological abuse, a gradual wearing down process that makes the individuals feel demeaned and inadequate, and hopeless not only within their own work environment but also in their domestic life.”

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton also spoke in favour of the Bill being passed;

“In my submission, the Bill is particularly welcome for two features. The first is its concentration on the terrible problem of bullying, of which my noble friends Lady Gibson and Lady Gould have spoken so convincingly and on which our current law is so manifestly inadequate and confused. Even beyond the focus on bullying, I welcome especially a worker’s right under the Bill to escape unjustified punishment and arbitrary change in his or her working life. I also welcome the right, so clearly set out, not to be victimised for pursuing proceedings for his or her rights to be enforced.

So often today, those whose only way of feeding their families is the sale of their labour power, by hand or by brain, are spoken of as though they were merely items in a labour market, to be manipulated— “

Baroness Barker also spoke in favour of the Bill being passed,

“I want to pick up the question of why we need to have specific legislation on this subject. It has become clear to me in my researches that because of the absence of any specific bullying legislation a great many people dream up or invent reasons to recast what is actually bullying as something else. That is extremely bad for management. To call something by another name and to call it racial discrimination or sexual discrimination, for example, when it is just plain bullying does not help either the business or the culture involved.

A couple of years ago I was on a training course led by a personnel manager. He took us through a number of different case studies in order to put across some points. He described one case study in a large statutory organisation. He came to the crux of the matter and asked, “What happened next? Let me rephrase the question and ask any of you who ever worked for the NHS what happened next”? Three people put their hands up and said, “She went sick”. The lack of specific legislation on bullying and its recasting as something else breed a culture in some organisations which is distinctly unhelpful. There is a powerful case for disentangling bullying from other things.

As your Lordships will know, the 1996 Bill foundered for two main reasons. First, it suffered the fate of many a Private Member’s Bill; that is, death at the hands of the draftsman. The then government spokesman, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, took apart the wording of the Bill with all the relish of a Minister unveiling the fruits of the toil of parliamentary counsel. One of the merits of the Bill before us today is that many of those criticisms, principally those of definition, have been taken into account by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson. Clause 1 of the present Bill which seeks to define behaviours which would be deemed to constitute bullying is much more tightly defined.

The second reason why Lord Monkswell’s Bill met a swift end in another place was not the ill disposition or the then government, although, undoubtedly, that played a part, but rather the sense that specific legislation would be either an unnecessary burden on business or would fail to tackle the issue effectively. I suspect that there was also another factor although it was never explicitly stated; namely, a fear that the passage of such legislation would in itself lead to a rash of claims. The then government acknowledged that although bullying was a problem of some significance, its adverse effect on productivity, coupled with existing legal protection against explicit discrimination and protection on grounds of health and safety, for example, should suffice. Six years on we have another opportunity to assess the extent to which that strategy was correct and the extent to which there is a need for legislation now.

A number of noble Lords have cited some of the studies and pieces of research which have emerged since 1996. I wish to mention just two. In 1998 Staffordshire University published research in which 40 per cent of those surveyed had witnessed bullying and 18 per cent had experienced for themselves what they termed bullying. That in turn sparked other pieces of research, the most interesting of which found that priests and clergy have been among those who have, experienced that.

The research by Professor Cary Cooper and Helge Hoel of the Manchester School of Management at UMIST was quoted extensively by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould. I want to discuss two further points about it. The first involves the headline conclusions of that research, which was entitled Destructive Conflict and Bullying at Work. It concluded that bullying thrives in a management culture where the loss of emotional control goes unmanaged; that good employers need a policy to deter bullying, which states explicitly that those who report incidents will not be victimised; and that bullying is often a correlation of autocratic, insensitive management styles, which need to be confronted and challenged. Each of those points should be readily understood by any employer who wishes to have a productive and thriving enterprise.

Secondly, the detailed findings of that study tell us a great deal more. The percentages of men and women who had been bullied were roughly equal. Those who were victims were most likely to be aged between 35 and 44, to be white and on full-time permanent contracts. Although managers were most likely to be perpetrators, they, too, could be victims. The significance of that data is that they indicate that bullying is not confined to particular professions or sections of the workplace. It can and does happen to anyone, but it is most likely to occur when other poor management practices are taking place.

That study defined the critical times at which bullying was most likely to occur. It cited factors such as periods of organisational change, the introduction of new IT systems, redundancy and restructuring. All of those are well-known pressure points in any organisation of any size. That valuable information is available now and the Government should be promoting it vigorously in order to enable employers to identify bullying and to take preventive or remedial action.

As I said earlier, the Bill has benefited from previous scrutiny. Clause 1 confers a right to dignity at work and provides a detailed but not exhaustive list of behaviours. That list is helpful and necessary. On 8th April 2001, Richard Wilson of the Institute of Directors wrote an article querying the need for legislation. He said: How would you distinguish between times when people do need to be criticised and encouraged to do better, and those when people are being treated in an unacceptable fashion?”. There is plenty of relevant evidence from the world of education. Furthermore, in my field—social care—working definitions of abuse have been developed over the past 10 years. It is high time that employers caught up with many other fields and adopted the definitions in the Bill, coupled with the growing body of evidence from employment tribunals. In other employment matters, such as race and disability discrimination, employers are increasingly wising up to the fact that bad practice equals bad business. They should swiftly come to the same realisation about bullying.

It is high time that staff who are victims of bullying are given information and support to enable them to seek a way out other than resignation from situations that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, has set out, are often extremely damaging. This measure is commendable and we on these Benches wish the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, well, not just with this good piece of legislation, but with what, in reality, will be a longer campaign to educate employers to eradicate the scourge of bullying at work.

Lord Rotherwick on the other hand argued against the introduction of new legislation to protect workers who are victims of workplace bullying on the following grounds;

“Can the extra burdens on small businesses and the public and voluntary sectors be justified with more legislation? Large private sector employers with adequate resources can and do use cost/benefit analysis to underpin a business case to tackle workplace bullying. But it is questionable whether small businesses have adequate resources to carry out similar risk assessment. This is a complex and costly area for any employer considering the introduction of dignity at work policies. The employer should take into account not only that people who are being bullied have employment rights, but that those being disciplined for bullying also have rights. For instance, if an employer does not strike the correct delicate balance in addressing an employee over alleged bullying, that employee may feel that the employer has been heavy-handed and has tried to dismiss him or her and can make a tribunal claim against the employer.

Can legislation be used surgically to solve a workplace problem without secondary effects? While there is an argument as to whether or not we want this type of legislation, it is worth bearing in mind what Jan Long, the clinical adviser at the Wiltshire and Swindon NHS Trust’s staff support centre, said. He warns that accusations of bullying are already used to cover up poor performance. He goes on to state: Once accused managers find themselves in an agonising situation where it is almost impossible to defend themselves. The knock on effect is that managers are finding it increasingly difficult to discipline staff. Sadly, this is especially true when dealing with sensitive situations—such as with members of minority groups”. Another example is that of Mr Richard of the Institute of Directors who claims that any legislation is fraught with difficulties. He asks: How would you distinguish between times when people need to be criticised and encouraged to do better, and those when people are being treated in an unacceptable fashion?”

Reading Lord Rotherwick’s comments, I cannot help but think he feels that the legislation to protect people against racial and sexual discrimination is not appropriate because of difficulties he perceives employers face when trying to discipline employees or address underperformance. When looking at evidence from the victims of bullying, procedures have been flagrantly flouted and the victim has not been given a fair hearing.

For example in my case that I referred to in one of the first blogs; I was called into a senior Director’s office who was employed by  large public sector organisation. I was not told the purpose of the meeting and I was told to be bring a line manager who had control over my career. At the meeting I was told that another senior Director was considering taking legal action against me because of a letter I had written. No letter was at the meeting, the Director who was supposed to be considering legal action was also not at the meeting. When I asked what specifically I had written, he was unable to give any answer. Because of his position, my line manager believed that I had done something illegal, although with no idea of what. Of course I hadn’t done anything. I had simply disagreed with plans the senior Director had regarding my ‘department’ and I had provided very good reason based on solid objective data analysis. In other words, he wanted to get rid of me for doing my job well. He succeeded after 25 years in a career I loved. The grievance I raised was a farce as there was no transparency and evidence I provided was ignored. If the Senior Director had genuine reason to make such a claim, he would have informed me of the purpose of the meeting beforehand. He would have had the letter at the meeting that we could have discussed and the senior Director who was supposedly considering legal action would have been at the meeting too. If there had been transparency in terms of correct procedures being followed  there would be no reason for me to claim bullying.

With regard to underperformance, if there was clear evidence that underperformance existed and correct procedures were followed, a claimant who was trying to cite bullying would not be successful at a tribunal.

I therefore believe that Lord Rotherwick’s argument does not stand up to evidence.

What do you think? Please comment with your views and experiences.

 

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

 

Protection for German Workers against Workplace Bullying

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In Germany the Ministry Of Labour and Social Affairs on its website page, “Bullying at Work” states,
Employers are obliged to protect their employees’ right of privacy and health. They must therefore prevent mobbing, act against employees who mob others and take all possible measures to prevent mobbing in their companies.”

The German Constitution provides protection of personality, honour health and equal rights of individuals. This is deemed to include the outlawing of bullying. The German Civil Code (GCC) provides a legal foundation for contractual liability and tort claims which can be extended to claims for bullying and stress at work.

In addition many businesses treat bullying as a violation of their collective work agreements and/or have implemented internal regulations to address work-related stress and harassment.
Within this general framework, there are three categories of bullying:
1. harassment that is not based on Protected Characteristics (called bullying or mobbing);
2. harassment that is based on Protected Characteristics; and
3. bullying as a criminal offence.
(www.internationallaborlaw.com/files/2013/01/Bullying-Harassment-and-Stress-in-the-workplace-A-European-Perspective.pdf

Isn’t it about time that the UK also treated bullying as a criminal offence regardless of any protected characteristics?

Next week the blog will look in detail at the legislation in Sweden to protect their workers. Sweden was the first country in the world to enact specific anti bullying legislation. Following that, the blog will summarise legislation in other countries around the world and look at the reasons why UK politicians have not accepted the Dignity at Work Bill to provide the workers in the UK the same protection.

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

Spanish Legislation to Protect Workers against Bullying in the Workplace

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Spain

In Spain, the legal framework for bullying can be split into three categories:

  • bullying under Spanish civil law other than in relation to Protected Characteristics;
  • bullying in relation to Protected Characteristics; and
  • criminal liability for bullying.

 For this blog, I’m not looking at bullying in relation to Protected Characteristics as these people are protected under various legislation, including the Equality Act 2010. This Act  is based on the EU Equal Treatment Directives, which all EU member states had to transpose into law.

 Workplace bullying not based on Protected Characteristics

1. The Spanish Constitution – which guarantees “dignity” as an inalienable right, the “right to life, and the physical and mental (or moral) integrity” of every person and the right to privacy, honour,and respect of one’s image and reputation.

 2.The Law of the Statute of Workers gives all workers rights to their “physical integrity,” “privacy” and “due consideration for their dignity” including protection against abuse based on ethnic origin, religion, convictions, sickness, age or sexual orientation.

 3.The Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks and Rule 39/1997 on Preventative Services (RSP), and other health and safety regulations – which includes a broad duty for employers to maintain a safe workplace.

 In this context, the labour administration has adopted a code of practice on violence and harassment for the labour inspectors in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations which provides for the following general definition of bullying:

 “Where an unwanted conduct occurs with the purpose or the effect of violating the dignity of a person, and of creating an effect of violating the dignity of a person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” (Code of Practice for the Spanish Labour Inspectors on Bullying and Violence at Work 69/2009).

 4. The Code also establishes three basic elements constitutive of legal bullying:

 a)  the acts must be carried out with “the purpose or the effect” of violating the victim’s rights (demonstrating the bully’s intent is not required). As in France, therefore, under civil law, bullying does not require the bully to have the intent of bullying. Rather, there only needs to be a causal link between the conduct and the resultant harm (Spanish Constitutional Tribunal, 89/2005);

 b)  the behaviour creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for the victim; and

 c)  the behaviour is repetitive and capable of harming the victim’s health (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia Galicia 30 May 2005, AS 1515).

 Criminal liability for bullying

In June 2010, bullying at work was codified as a criminal violation under Article 173.1§2 of the Spanish Penal Code. Specifically, the new law has made it an offense, punishable by imprisonment for between six months and two years for:

 “those working in the private or public sector takingadvantage of their superior position and performing against another person repeated hostile orhumiliating acts which without constituting degrading treatment involve serious harassment of thevictim”.

 The necessary elements of the criminal offense of bullying are:

  • repeated acts (this requirement has been further elaborated by case law);
  • hostile or humiliating;
  • that do not constitute degrading treatment, but represent a serious harm to the victim;
  • must be committed by a superior towards someone lower in the hierarchy (this excludes “horizontal” harassment where co workers or peers mistreat one another, or inverse vertical harassment where it is the supervisor who is the victim); and
  • intentionality is required (negligent harassment is not punished). However, there are questions as to the effectiveness of this new law, particularly given that criminal proceedings are very slow and generally last for a minimum of three years.

 Criminal sanctions specific to bullying include six months’ to two years’ imprisonment.

From the civil standpoint, in addition to damages the following remedies are available:

  • claims analogous to constructive discharge; and
  • an order to nullify any termination or other measures taken on discriminatory grounds.

 In addition to actions brought by bullied employees, employers run the risk of being sanctioned by the Spanish Administration itself where Labour Inspectors find that a worker’s dignity has been violated, including through acts of bullying. This may lead to significant fines ranging from €6,251 to €187,515 for violations of labour law and from €2,046 to €819,780 for infringement of health and safety regulations.

  Labour Inspectors may also initiate proceedings to impose a 30-50% surcharge of a

bullied employee’s Social Security charges if the harm suffered was caused “exclusively” by the performance of work. (Spanish Social Security Act, Article 115.2.e).

 Finally, bullying can lead to additional Social Security liability. An employer guilty of bullying is liable to be charged between 30-50% of an injured employee’s total disability subsidy for work related injuries that are due to the employer’s failure to properly mitigate risk.

 Some illustrative examples of workplace bullying in Spain

  • Spain’s Supreme Court ordered the municipal government of Coria to pay €4,500 in compensation to an employee who was forced to work in a basement, with neither daylight nor ventilation.
  • Spain’s Supreme Court ordered a tool company to pay €14,000 for “biased psychological pressure,” and another € 30,000 in compensation for psychological damages to an employee who was forced to do work that did not fall within his job description, and was below his qualification level.

 

 

 

Bullying in the Workplace DOC – International labor Law

Next week I will look at legislation in Germany.

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

The Dignity at Work Partnership estimated that the cost of workplace bullying in 2007 was £17.65 billion

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The Dignity at Work Partnership estimated that the cost of workplace bullying in 2007 was £17.65 billion

“The serial bully who in my estimation accounts for about 1 person in 30 in society, is the single most important threat to the effectiveness of organisations, the profitability of industry, the performance of the economy and the prosperity of society” Tim Field, Bullyonline December 1999  www.bullyonline.org/workbully.quotes.htm

The Dignity at Work partnership carried out detailed research of the costs of bullying for the year  2007. Using statistics taken from the Office of National Statistics, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Unison, Health and Safety Executive and many others; the following was concluded;

33.5 million working days were lost by UK organisations due to bullying related absenteeism

£3.06 billion was the cost of bullying related absenteeism

199,375 employees left organisations as a result of bullying

£1.5 billion was the total cost of the turnover of staff due to bullying

100  million days productivity was lost due to bullying

£9.14 billion was the total cost of bullying related to the loss in productivity

TOTAL COST = £13.75 Billion in 2007 (£3.06 B + £1.5 B + £9.14B)

Other costs however include such things as the costs to the criminal justice system (Employment Tribunals etc)

Welfare – the state may have to take on payments for long term sickness

Premature and ill health retirement (loss of National health contributions)

Costs of 3rd party interventions (eg ACAS)

The Dignity at Work Partnership went on to say in their report,

“Adopting Gordon and Risley’s (1999) approach who suggested that the cost of bullying to society is in the region of 1.4% – 2% of the Gross National Product (GDP) and taking 2004 GDP estimates of £1176.5 Billion (National Statistics 2007) we can estimate that a 1.5% reduction in overall UK productivity would result in a financial cost of £17.65 billion.

It is quite clear therefore that bullying is not only costly to each individual who is a victim of bullying but also to society at large.

CIPD reported on the 10th February 2014 that the Government is launching ‘The Health and Work Service’ in order to cut the cost of long term absences by offering a helpline and non-compulsory medical assessments. The Government disclosed that it could cut ill health costs for employers by as much as £70m a year. (BBC news 9  February 2014). Compare this figure of £70 million to £17.65 billion.

I consider this £70 million a drop in the ocean compared to what could be saved, £17.65 billion if bullying was made illegal and the impact of bullying in the workplace was taken seriously by our policy makers.

Imagine what improvements could be made to our public services and everybody’s standard of living if  an extra £17.65 billion every year  was added to our Gross National product.

What are your thoughts?

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