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18.08.2021

Why your Dignity and Respect at Work policy is so important

By Paul O’Connor

Dignity and Respect in the workplace made headlines back in June when two Irish colleges failed to outline their plans for addressing sexual harassment and violence at their institutions to Minister Simon Harris.

While both colleges were given an extension, cases of bullying or harassment are best handled in a reasonable timeframe and without delay. To do that, and do it right in every instance, you’re going to need a Dignity and Respect at Work policy.

Below, we look at the key points of dignity and respect at work, your obligations as an employer, and that all-important policy.

What is Dignity and Respect at work?

Dignity and Respect at work concerns providing employees with an environment that’s free from bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.

At this point, it’s important to note that bullying and harassment differ. Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, by one or more individuals, which undermines a person’s dignity at work.

Harassment is unwanted conduct that could create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive environment. It is linked to the nine grounds of discrimination:

  • Age
  • Civil status
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Gender
  • Membership of the travelling community
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

Every employee has the right to dignity at work regardless of profession, sector or status of employment. Not only are employees entitled to the right to dignity at work, but employers are under a duty of care to ensure that this is upheld…

Employer obligations and duty of care

You, the employer, are vicariously liable if bullying or harassment happens in your workplace. That means you can be held responsible for the actions of your employees. If anything, that underlines the importance of having a Dignity and Respect at Work policy in place. And when that policy is in place, your employees must understand it.

In the event you fail to deal with instances of bullying and harassment, an employee can make a claim under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The maximum award for claims under the Equality Act is two years’ salary and awards for claims under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act are uncapped.

Your Dignity and Respect at Work policy

Having covered what dignity and respect at work is and your obligations as an employer, let’s discuss your Dignity and Respect at Work policy.

The first step when putting together an effective policy is to define what bullying and harassment in the workplace mean. They are separate behaviours and must be addressed in writing as such. Your policy should include who it applies to and what scenarios.

The next step is to outline what procedure will be followed when handling instances of bullying and harassment. It should indicate the informal and the formal route and explain the steps of both.

Your policy should also clarify how an employee can appeal the outcome of a formal process. This is a right of theirs a crucial part of the broader procedure.

In conclusion

The absence of a Dignity and Respect at Work policy can have detrimental repercussions. You won’t be able to prove that you took all preventative measures necessary to avoid any instances of bullying and harassment. In turn, you leave yourself open to liability.

Furthermore, if an employee doesn’t have access to a Dignity and Respect at Work policy, they won’t know how to raise their concerns. This can exacerbate existing issues and may lead to the employee approaching a third party such as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Article: Dignity and Respect in the workplace in the spotlight

Would you like to arrange a Dignity and Respect in the Workplace training session?

Graphite HRM has over a decade of experience helping employers, business owners, and HR personal understand the fundamentals of Dignity and Respect at work.

If you would like to arrange Dignity and Respect in the Workplace training for your business or want to speak to a HR consultant about an issue you’re having, call 01 886 0350 now or request a callback here.

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