March 30, 2007

Workplace bullying highest in Irish Public Sector - Ireland

Tony Killeen, Minister for Labour Affairs today published the results of two national surveys relating to workplace bullying, one of workers, ie, individuals at work including employees and self employed who have experienced workplace bullying, and, the other of employers in both the public and private sectors.

The main points which emerged from the surveys were:

• The survey of those at work finds that, overall, 7.9% reported that they had experienced bullying within the past 6 months. This compares with 7% in the 2001 survey.

• In both surveys women are shown to be more at risk, 10.7% in 2007 as against 5.8% for men. The 2001 figures were 9.5% and 5.3% respectively.

• A substantially higher percentage of employees, both men and women, report experiencing bullying by comparison with those who are self-employed - 8.9% v 2.9%.

• Those with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to report experiencing bullying in the workplace - 9.5% who have completed third level as against 4.4% of those who have completed the Junior Certificate.

• The incidence rate in the public sector is higher than in the private sector.

The highest rates of bullying are in Education, Public Administration, Health and Social Work.

• In terms of organisation size the highest rates are in medium sized and large organisations.

• Workers are at greater risk of experiencing bullying at work where there was management or organisational change, over 11% compared to 6.2% of those who had not had management or organisational change.

The public and private sector Employer Survey showed that -

• Bullying is more likely to be perceived as a problem in the public sector than in the private sector.

• It is more likely to be perceived as a problem in larger rather than in smaller organisations.

• Public sector organisations more likely to report that bullying by colleagues and by clients is a problem.

• Public sector organisations are more likely to report having a formal policy on workplace bullying in their organisations than those in the private sector.

• Public sector organisations are also more familiar with the Codes of Practice than those in the private sector.

• Procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying are much more prevalent in public sector organisations than in the private sector.

Killeen said that it was disappointing to see that the incidence figure has remained largely the same despite the increase in the level of awareness of the effects of bullying and its negative impact and the existence of Codes of Practice. He said that the fact that only around half of all organisations report that they have heard of Codes of Practice and are aware of their requirements is a concern. He added that he will shortly be announcing a revised Code of Practice developed by the Health and Safety Authority.

Another concern mentioned by Killeen arose from a point which emerged from the survey on the lack of a formal policy on workplace bullying in organisations more so in the private sector than in the public sector. The Minister said this points to the fact that the risk is not being identified and assessed which in itself is being negligent in a duty to those at risk. “I would advocate that in all workplaces any risks in regard to bullying should be identified and assessed and the policies should be put in place to deal with them” he said.

In regard to the public sector, Killeen said, “I am concerned that the survey of those at work shows that the incidence of bullying, whether by managers, subordinates, colleagues or clients is highest in the public sector. In fact, 39% of public sector employers regard bullying of colleagues to be a problem, which many people will consider a surprisingly high level. I am calling today on managers in the public sector to recognise that they have a problem on their hands and to set about addressing it without delay. They have a legal duty to do so under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.”


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