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A Reminder of what Workplace Bullying is.

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A Reminder of what Workplace Bullying is. Tim Field in his book Bully In Sight says that “after a victim has been bullied out of their job, the pain and separation that the victim experiences is similar to that felt following the death of a loved one. This is especially so if a) it is a position one has occupied for a long time, b) it is a job one loves and has made a success of, c) the job involves working with people (adults or children, especially the disadvantaged) and d) termination  is through dismissal enacted or contrived through bullying behaviour.”Some might find it offensive to equate loss of life with loss  of job, for one is replaceable, the other is clearly not. However, relative merit is not the issue – it is the effect that loss and severance has on the psyche which is the same……” “Victims of bullying often find that because they are ousted in unacceptable circumstances and through dubious practices, they don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends and colleagues; they are denied the opportunity to put their affairs in order, tie up loose ends and complete tasks in hand, designate successors and beneficiaries and collect their belongings.” This I concur. I worked with children, frequently disadvantaged children as well as adults and loved my career of 25 years. Although I was not dismissed, the false allegations made against me, damaging my reputation and future career prospects and the refusal of anyone to do anything about the perpetrators forced me to take early retirement. I know what it is like to grieve for a close relative who has passed away, and the pain and suffering due to the separation I was feeling from my career was similar. Reading this book helped me through this grieving process because I came to realize that my feelings were normal. I thought I must be crazy not being able to return to the place of work where I put in on average 55 hours a week. I left my belongings such as my own printer that I was using, electronic photograph album etc. I was unable to tidy up loose ends as Tim Field describes. Two years later I still cannot bring myself to drive past the building. From someone who has a very strong character, I couldn’t understand my feelings. Tim Field describes this as quite normal. We are lagging  behind America, Canada, Europe and Australia in terms of protecting our workers in the workplace. Its time the Trade Union Congress spoke up as well as the public and MP’s in order to stop this abhorrent practice. How come other continents recognize the serious harm of workplace bullying but the UK doesn’t. After all, evidence shows that it is rife in our workplaces. (see previous blogs) As Tim Field wrote on page 50, “ Statements such as ‘Why didn’t we tackle this before?’ will be familiar to those who have conquered denial in previous causes. Rape, discrimination, sexual harassment, child abuse, now workplace bullying – it’s as if society is picking off and ticking off these violational abuses one by one; perhaps the next millennium will be one of enlightened and pleasurable existence after all. In the meantime there is much to do and we must not be complacent.” We are 14 years into the next millennium and nothing is being done. Please speak up and say whether you think we should follow in other countries and continents examples by making workplace bullying illegal. Support the campaign to Introduce Legislation to protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying.

Culture of Bullying in the Police Federation: Home affairs Committee calls for Urgent Reform

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Culture of Bullying in the Police Federation: Home Affairs Committee calls for Urgent Reform

Today in the BBC news we hear about bullying within the police. In a report by the former top civil servant at the Home Office, Sir David Normington and in a follow up inquiry, M.P’s heard alarming allegations of bullying and unprofessional conduct. The report stated that the federation’s former Chairman, Paul McKeever, who died in office, was the victim of a systematic campaign of abuse, as was his successor,  Steve Williams. An email drafted by Mr. Williams stated, “We all saw what happened to our friend and colleague, Paul McKeever and with a young family I do not intend to let the same thing happen to me.”

M.P. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home affairs Committe, said, ” When you hear stories that the national leadership has been indulging in rival acts of bullying, that is simply not acceptable.”

From my previous blogs, you will have read about victims of bullying being nurses, teachers, soldiers, priests and now the police.

Although all of the stories have involved people working in the public sector, there are many victims who work in the private sector who suffer the same fate at the hands of the perpetrators of bullying. Everybody is appalled at the treatment victims suffer and the harm it causes to the individuals as well as the economy, yet still the Government has done nothing.

Let’s be reminded of the reason why Baroness Gibson presented 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.”

Do you not think it is about time that bullying was made illegal. It is very clear to me and many others, particularly the victims, that there is no satisfactory law in place to protect individuals from such hideous acts of bullying in the workplace.

 

Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers 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

 

Universal Credit and Job Seeker’s Allowance

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Universal Credit and Job Seeker’s Allowance

Employment Minister Esther McVey  has stated that jobseekers risk losing their benefits if they turn down certain zero-hours contracts without good reason.

Until now, people on Jobseeker’s Allowance could refuse to accept such jobs without facing penalties. But the new universal credit system demands that people take up the casual contracts – even though they do not always guarantee work.

A Government spokesman explained that when workers do not get the hours they need, their universal credit payments would adjust automatically to ensure they are financially supported.

However, how successful has the introduction of Universal Credit been? There have been numerous IT problems and Universal Credit is still a long way behind schedule. I cannot help but worry  that universal credit payments will not adjust automatically to take into account a claimant who has not been offered any hours of work within certain weeks. After all, with the history of different government’s policies which have not succeeded because of IT problems, the idea of universal credit automatically adjusting does not bode well. How will these families cope if there is a failure within the Universal Credit IT system?

What is your view on Zero Hour Contracts and Universal Credit?

The very next blog on workplace bullying will be looking at the reasons why certain politicians have argued against the Dignity at Work Bill.

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

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.

France
Below is text taken from http://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/diversity_and_equality/french-law-prohibiting-bullying-in-the-workplace/  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

Everybody can be a Victim of Bullying

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Everybody can be a Victim of Bullying

Articles have been written about soldiers, public service workers, doctors, nurses who have been victims of being bullied out of their jobs. Now we have an article about a Priest who was bullied out of his Parish because he spoke out about after service drinking and had the integrity to try and do something about it. An investigation was carried out and the report stated, “There was a culture amongst a very small number of members of St. Faith’s that bullying and the undermining of Simon Tibbs (Priest) are acceptable as a means to an end – his removal.”

Is bullying ever acceptable? Absolutely not.

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