Thursday, 8 February 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
48. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to guidelines or regulations on bullying in the workplace; the options available to an employee who is being bullied; if there is any statutory agency under the aegis of her Department which deals with such complaints; if the process and procedure can be outlined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3389/01]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): There is no specific primary legislation or regulations on workplace bullying. The principal legislation dealing with workplace health and safety is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989. This Act sets out the duties of an employer with regard to protecting the safety, health and welfare of his employees at work. Under section 12 of the Act every employer must prepare a safety statement which should be based on an identification of hazards and the assessment of the risks in the workplace and which should specify the way in which the safety, health and welfare of employees is to be secured.
The Health and Safety Authority, which comes under the aegis of my Department, is the statutory body responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 and any regulations made under that Act. In response to a large number of calls and queries from members of the public on the subject of workplace bullying, I asked the authority to produce a booklet, “Bullying at Work”, which offers advice on the subject. I am informed by the authority that callers are made aware of the existence of this booklet and a copy is forwarded to them. An accompanying letter will advise that while the authority does not intervene in an individual case, it will insist that an employer has an anti-bullying policy. The booklet gives details of other sources from which advice or assistance may be sought.
One of these sources is the rights commissioner service which is based at the Labour Relations Commission at Tom Johnson House, Haddington Road, Dublin 4. In addition, advice on workplace harassment and discrimination may be sought from the Equality Authority. The Deputy may wish to note that the Employment Equality Act,  1998 prohibits discrimination in employment on nine distinct grounds: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race and membership of the traveller community. The Equality Authority can advise on the scope or application of this Act. The Equality Authority comes under the control of my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and is based at Clonmel Street, Dublin 2.
The Deputy may also be aware that the task force on the prevention of workplace bullying, which I set up, is examining the area of workplace bullying in detail and is due to report to me very shortly.
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