Posts Tagged ‘Bullying’

News from the Courts

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Managing complaints when an employee is out sick – €17,500 awarded to an ex-employee.

In a recent ruling by the Labour Court (as outlined in IRN), a compensation payment of €17,500 was awarded to an ex-employee of a company.

The employee had experienced some difficulties in the workplace and, following two meetings with the Directors of the company in March 2015, the employee had gone on extended sick leave for up to 6 months with a medical certificate stating workplace related stress. The employee – through his solicitors – then invoked the company’s bullying and harassment policy and requested that an investigation be initiated.

The company responded by stating that they would wait for the employee to return to work, and which stage it would ‘discuss any issues you may have, in line with your contract of employment’.

The employee again requested that the policy request be activated. There was no further response from the company and the employee resigned with immediate effect on 10th June 2015.

Although there were several issues with the employee’s performance at work, the employee claims that he made repeated informal complaints of bullying and harassment.

The Court concluded that no investigation was ever undertaken and that certain claims made by the company at the hearing had never been put to the employee when he was in employment.

Because no investigation was instigated (in any form), the Labour Court viewed it reasonable for the employee to resign and effectively take constructive dismissal.

This is a very important judgement which establishes that it is not enough for a company to just wait for the return of an employee who has made an official bullying complaint. Employers need to be pro-active and – at the very least – plan for a complaint to be heard on the return of the employee from sick leave. Other employment issues cannot override the employer’s approach to an employee who makes a bullying complaint and should be treated as separate issues.

Voltedge Management can offer support, advice and independent investigators if required.  Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call the office on 01 5252914.

Changes likely on how internal investigations are managed

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Due to a recent High Court judgement, there may be some change coming in relation to how internal bullying investigations are handled. This judgement suggests that employees who are the subject of an internal bullying investigations have the right to legal representation at the internal employer investigation hearings and a right to “confront” or cross-examine fellow employees who may have made allegations against them, where there is a risk of dismissal.

Another aspect of this judgement is that it appears to suggest that this principle should be observed outside of disciplinary hearings, and could arise in non-disciplinary investigations conducted by employers where those investigations could subsequently lead to dismissal.

To date, the LRC Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures is based the application of “fair procedures” in relation to the disciplinary processes. Fair procedures is not a prescriptive term and is not defined by statute, however the principles in employment processes are derived from case law and the LRC codes of practice.

This new development suggests that, where investigative procedures are invoked that could lead to dismissal, the respondent employee cannot be deprived of a right to legal representation at investigation hearings or a right to cross-examine those who may have made accusations, even if they are fellow employees. This could mean that employees who are the subject of an investigation now may bring legal representation to investigation meetings or, an employee who is the complainant, could now be subject to cross examination by such lawyers during investigation hearings.

Your HR Questions Answered

Monday, July 17th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively and every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: I have an employee who has said that they feel bullied – what do I do?

A: If an employee feels they are being bullied the employer needs to be pro-active and immediately talk to the individual.

Questions to be asked:  

1)            When did this start?

2)            Have you had a number of incidents and can you give me details?

3)            Have you attempted to stop the behaviour of the alleged bully and what have you done?

4)            Have you talked to anyone else about this?

If the employee answers yes to the first 3 questions the employer needs to ask the employee if they wish to make a formal complaint or if they wish to keep the issue informal. If they don’t want to make a formal complaint the employer needs to still be confident that the issue is being resolved and not continuing, or put processes/resources in place to support the individual going forward.

If they wish to make a formal complaint, the employer will need to carefully follow their Bullying Procedure, appointing an independent investigator, ensuring fairness for all parties, and communicating clearly about the process.

Q: I want to recruit an employee for a few months but I don’t know what type of contract to offer them? Can I give them a contract that doesn’t have a definite date of termination?

A: Temporary contracts need to be carefully utilised to ensure that employers and employees are very clear about their responsibilities and the type of contract being applied. There are 2 main temporary contracts:

a) Fixed Term Contract: This is a contract with a fixed duration (e.g. 6 months) which is stated clearly in the written contract. If the employee is required after the termination date of this contract, employers should issue an additional contract to the employee, don’t let the contract roll over as this may result in an employee being entitled to permanency (after 12 months).

Fixed term contracts can be renewed for up to a maximum total period of 4 years, at which time the employer will have to make the employee permanent. The employer should also notify this employee of any permanent positions that they may wish to apply for.

b) Specified Purpose Contract: This is a contract for a specified purpose with no duration. An example would be a particular project with a finite life, where the employee is solely engaged on this project and leaves once the project is completed. The critical issue is ensuring that the employee is ONLY engaged under the strict terms of the contract and is not utilised for other work.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.