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Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT ISSUED MARCH 2006

Up-date warning: Change to the legal definition of harassment

Readers should be aware that on 6th April 2008 changes were made to the law on Sex Discrimination which impact on the definition of harassment in relation to gender or maternity. The definition change only relates to this jurisdiction and not the others, that is, race, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation. The definition is much wider than the existing one which is causative and where the conduct is “on the grounds of” sex, in that it eliminates the causative element and widens it to where the conduct “is related to” sex. This means that indirect victims, that is those not personally subjected to the unwanted conduct, are afforded the protection of the law. In addition the law now also requires employers to take reasonably practicable measures to protect employees from harassment by third parties where such harassment is known to have occurred on at least two other occasions.

As anyone with experience of the world of work will know, harassment and  bullying represent longstanding and difficult problems to resolve. This guide has been produced to help all those with an interest or involvement in the world of work to develop an understanding of the issues. More importantly, the handbook outlines positive steps that can be taken to help harassment and bullying become problems of the past rather than the present or the future.

Further information and help

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The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

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Please note that we cannot deal with employment-related enquiries by e-mail. To receive information or advice about an employment-related issue, please telephone our Helpline on Belfast 90 321442 where an officer will speak with you directly about your query. Please note that the Agency can arrange the services of an interpreter if required.

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