Sunday, 13th October 2019

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dignity at Work – Workplace Racism at an Alarming Level

Employers - Did you know that you can be held accountable for bullying or harassment in the workplace?

……..Not being aware of it does not get you off the hook!

Bullying in the workplace is any recurring inappropriate conduct that undermines a person’s right to dignity at work. Bullying can be carried out by one person or by several people - it is aimed at an individual or a group where the objective is to make them feel inferior or victimised. Bullying can come in the form of a verbal or physical assault and can also take place over the internet – this is known as cyber bullying and can be performed via many methods - Mobile phones, social networking sites, emails and texts are all common vehicles for cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying is becoming more and more prevalent in society.

Keep in mind that harassment based on civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, race, nationality or ethnic origin, disability or membership of the Traveller community is considered discrimination.

Harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the terms of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 to 2007. The Act of harassment - whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional - is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by any company.   Any allegations should be dealt with seriously, promptly and confidentially with a thorough and immediate investigation. Any acts of harassment should be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.  Any victimisation of an employee for reporting an incident, or assisting with an investigation of alleged harassment and/or bullying is a breach of equality legislation and should also be subject to disciplinary action.

 

Dignity at work

Bullying or harassment isn’t always obvious – in fact it can come in many shapes and forms – some examples are:

•Social exclusion or isolation

•Damaging someone’s reputation through gossip or rumour

•Any form of intimidation

•Aggressive or obscene language or behaviour

•Repeated requests for unreasonable tasks to be carried out

Employers Beware:

Under current Irish employment legislation (The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011) companies are accountable when it comes to bullying and harassment in the workplace or workplace disputes. It is vital for employers to be mindful of the legislation as companies are answerable for the actions of employees, suppliers and customers even in cases where the company is not aware that bullying or harassment is taking place.

To defend itself a company must illustrate how it did everything reasonably practicable to prevent bullying and / or harassment from taking place in the workplace. The company must also show that when an instance of bullying or harassment occurred the company took immediate, fair and decisive action.

There is a huge risk of exposure if companies do not adhere to the strict Regulations. Those found in violation of the Act may be liable for fines and in severe circumstances imprisonment on summary conviction. Companies can also end up paying out large sums in compensation.

Bullying creates a very hostile work environment and can negatively affect employee performance – It can lead to disengagement and low levels of morale. It can also cause a company to lose key members of staff. Bullying can affect both the safety and the health of employees – this violates the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

It is abundantly clear that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to prevent bullying or harassment of any form in the workplace.

In order to avoid bullying and harassment an employer should include harassment-related policies and procedures in the Employee Handbook – A Dignity at Work Policy should be communicated clearly to employees. This will clarify what is expected of employees and what the protocol/repercussions are if bullying/harassment does occur.

 

Racism, Dignity at work

Last week the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) brought our attention to a shocking statistic – The ICI revealed that the number of racist incidents reported in Ireland over the last 12 months had jumped to a staggering figure – They dealt with 120 individual racism cases in the past
year. 52 of these instances were reported in June/July of 2013 alone marking a huge increase when compared to the same period in 2012 when just 3 incidents were reported.

The racism reported related to alleged discrimination, written harassment, verbal harassment and physical violence.

The most commonly reported setting for racism was the workplace – where a massive 20% of reported incidents occurred.

Employers need to be vigilant and need to make more of an effort to consciously crack down on this type of activity.

 

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Why Companies are choosing to Outsource their HR

The number of cases annually referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal increased three fold during the Irish economic recession and the average compensation awarded by the Tribunal in Unfair Dismissal cases rose from €11,476.00 to €18,047.85 between 2009 and 2011.

 

During this time of economic hardship Employers must pay even closer attention than ever before to their expenditure. Many organisations are forced to downsize and - in this era of increased Employee Litigation - making sure you follow appropriate procedures in redundancy or disciplinary scenarios, for example, is growing in importance.

 

Outsourcing CompaniesIt is at times like these that Companies need to concentrate on their Human Resource functions even more. Some elements of HR, however, can be both complicated and time consuming – an enormous burden on Employers. In recent years the focus has moved towards legal compliance (which can be a minefield with all of the pieces of Employment Legislation currently in operation) and administrative processes that can slow down the productivity of the firm.

 

For SMEs in particular, it makes a lot of business sense to outsource HR tasks as firms specialising in the field can improve efficiency dramatically. Outsourcing allows Companies to offload work that isn’t part of their core business. It also saves money. At a Company that doesn’t have the funds to hire specialists outsourcing can allow it to gain access to a vendor’s services when required as well as the expertise and wealth of experience that they have accumulated – all at an affordable price.   

 

While SMEs don’t have the same number of Employees as larger corporations and multinationals they still require the same HR elements on a smaller scale. For instance, they still need to recruit staff, they still need to abide by the vast array of Employment Laws and still require Employment Documentation (Contracts of Employment etc.).

 

 

 

Although some Companies do it, most SMEs cannot justify spending a large portion of their annual budget setting up a HR department comprehensive enough to incorporate the abundance of skills required to achieve a smooth-functioning, compliant working environment. Consequently, more and more Companies are choosing to outsource operations like HR and are directing vital, scarce, finances and resources towards other core/revenue-generating areas of the business.

 

On the other hand, some Employers end up trying to balance HR duties in addition to their other responsibilities which can leave opportunities for threats and vulnerabilities to creep in. As time goes by many Employers are realising that assigning a large percentage of their time to one area is not just inconvenient but impractical, too. Juggling all elements of a business without assistance can be extremely difficult and for this reason many Employers are opting for the cost-effective third party route which involves the use of an external HR Company. This gives them enhanced peace of mind and confidence that they are working within the confines of all Employment Legislation. Outsourcing Companies can deal with HR successfully and as a priority so that Employers do not have to concern themselves with the associated time constraints and conflicts. Companies can eliminate exposures they did not even know existed quickly and in a cost-effective manner by availing of the services of a HR Company.

 

HR Outsourcing

HR Companies deal with all features of Human Resources comprehensively. They have a base of specialist Employees who are trained and experienced in all areas of Employment Law – meaning they are fully equipped to deal with any Employee Relations issues that arise in the workplace. Engaging the services of HR professionals gives Employers access to a bank of relevant knowledge and experience. HR Companies are well prepared to support or advise SMEs without costing an arm and a leg. They keep up-to-date with all changes in Irish Employment Legislation and are able to offer better support and guidance than the client can attain in-house. Navigating Government regulations can be a draining activity for Employers, - it can be a time consuming and complicated process, however, it is what HR advisors are trained to do.

 

HR firms can do a lot more than you might think – not alone do they have a top-class portfolio of skills, knowledge and experience concentrated in this specific area, they can offer a range of services and support at an extremely affordable price. Some HR Companies provide comprehensive services for as little as €100 per month – Hiring a HR Employee, even on a part-time basis, would cost far in excess of this. Similarly, many Employers currently engage the services of Solicitors to prepare Contracts of Employment and other Employment Documentation – this can also be an extremely costly process.  

 

The HR Company Business Photo

HR Companies prepare Employment Documentation for their clients and on top of that are there to advise on all individual Employee related issues – discrimination claims, rest and annual leave entitlements, disciplinary and redundancy procedures, dismissals, grievances and much more. Lots of Companies operate outside of office hours and so some HR Companies even provide 24/7 advice lines for their clients meaning a client will never have an anxious wait for an answer. HR firms also provide support to existing HR departments within Companies - the level of service and associated costs are completely dependent on the needs of the individual Company.

 

HR firms are growing in popularity. In the past outsourcing was often a difficult process because of the issues distance can sometimes create. Thanks to the advances in technology, however, dedicated HR experts are only a couple of clicks or a phone call away – so Human Resource emergencies can be dealt with on the spot.

 

 

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Average Award in Unfair Dismissal Cases on the Rise

According to the Employment Appeals Tribunal Annual Report 2011 the number of cases annually referred to the Tribunal increased three fold during the Irish economic recession (to a high of 9,458 cases in 2009).

The average number of annual referrals before the recession had plateaued at approximately 3,500.

Statistics for Unfair Dismissals cases:

The average compensation awarded by the Tribunal in Unfair Dismissal cases has risen dramatically in recent years.

For the year ended 31st December 2009 the average compensation in Unfair Dismissals cases was €11,476. In 2010 it was €16,064.05 and in 2011 it was €18,047.85.

This is a trend that employers really need to pay attention to as large sums of money like this can seriously damage a company.

It is crucial to stay up-to-date with employment legislation and to follow appropriate procedures when dealing with employee matters.

 

Employment Appeals Tribunal, EAT, Compensation

 

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Searching Employee Belongings Appropriately

employee searches

Many employers have experienced theft by an employee in the workplace and, consequently, need to put certain measures in place in order to protect the profits of the company. It is the policy of some companies to search employees’ personal belongings when they are leaving the work premises. Employers can also reserve the right to search employee lockers and vehicles if this is agreed with the employee in advance.

 

If the employer wishes to have the option to carry out personal searches then it is crucial that all details surrounding these searches are clearly communicated to the employees in the contract of employment. Employees sign this contract and by doing so agree to the policies and procedures contained therein. 

If an employer reserves the right to search an employee’s belongings then he or she must do so in a dignified manner – giving the employee appropriate levels of privacy. There are several significant procedures to observe when performing a personal search. The individual carrying out the search should be in a management position and, in the interest of clarity; the employees should be made aware in advance who it will be.

The location of the search is also something that should be considered very carefully – it is important to maintain consistency and to carry out searches in an area that offers privacy to the employee involved. Employees should be notified of the location of the search and, ideally, it should be out of the view of customers and other employees. The shop floor is not appropriate search setting – the canteen is not suitable either.

Ideally the area should be covered by CCTV in order to prevent a “he said she said” situation from arising. If this is not possible then a witness should be present so that this scenario is avoided. Either way discretion is of cardinal importance.

theft in the workplace

As is procedure with airline security screening a male should search a male and a female should search a female, although, as the searches
should not involve body contact this is less of a priority. It is essential
that the employee is asked to open his or her bag, for instance, and that the person performing the search doesn’t breach privacy by putting their hands into the employee’s bag or on the employee’s person.

Employees should be asked politely to remove any suspicious items from their bag for further inspection – the item/items should be placed on a clear surface in order to ensure that there is no confusion over what was actually in the bag. The searching employee (management/security where possible) should never assume that an item has not been paid for. If the item in question was from the store then the employee should be asked to produce a
receipt for same.

Further action can be taken if the employee cannot furnish proof of purchase. When an employee purchases an item in the store during the working day it is good practice for companies to put in place a policy where the bag is sealed and the receipt is attached to the bag. This removes any ambiguity.

Some companies will carry out spot checks on employee belongings rather than checking them on a daily basis – it is vital to be fair and to ensure that the same employees are not targeted all the time.

Not following appropriate procedures can lead to employees being awarded large sums of money. 

 

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