Code of Practice For Employers And Employees On The Prevention And Resolution Of Bullying At Work

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 11 March 2021
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered: Bullying and Harassment; Discrimination and Equality; Bullying Code of Practice

A new code of practice concerning the prevention and resolution of bullying at work has been made by way of a statutory instrument No. 674/2020 published on 5 January 2021. It came into effect on 23rd December 2020.

This Code applies to all employments in Ireland irrespective of whether employees work at a fixed location, at home or are mobile.

What Are The Definitions? Bullying V Harassment


  • Under the Employment Equality Acts, Harassment is any unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds under the Employment Equality Acts.
  • Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.


  • For the purpose of this code workplace bullying is defined as repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could be reasonably regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
  • Workplace bullying should meet the criteria of an on-going series of accumulation of seriously negative targeted behaviours against a person or persons to undermine their esteem and standing in a harmful, sustained way.
  • Bullying behaviour is offensive, on-going, targeted and outside any reasonable ‘norm’.
  • A pattern and trend are involved so that a reasonable person would regard such behaviour as clearly wrong, undermining and humiliating.

What Is Not Bullying In The Workplace? 

Behaviour considered bullying by one person may be considered routine interaction by another, so the ‘reasonableness’ of behaviours over time must be considered.

  • Disrespectful behaviour, whilst not ideal, is not of itself bullying.
  • Conflicts and disagreements do not, of themselves, make for a bullying pattern either. There are various workplace behavioural issues and relationship breakdowns which are troubling, upsetting and unsettling but are not of an adequate level of destructiveness to meet the criteria required for a bullying case.
  • Objective criticism and corrections that are intended to provide constructive feedback to an employee are not usually considered bullying, but rather are intended to assist the employee with their work.

Prevention Of Workplace Bullying

There are several ways to prevent or at least minimise the risk of bullying in the workplace such as the following:


The culture of an organisation is an important factor in creating, establishing and maintaining a positive workplace environment free from bullying, intimidation or any on-going negative behaviour which might lay the foundation stone for a bullying culture.  There are several elements important to a positive workplace including good leadership (leading by example), a culture of involvement and a proper flow of communication, intolerance of inappropriate behaviour, training of staff on acceptable behaviour or conduct, an open and transparent pattern of relating based on mutual respect and dignity for all. 


It’s important to introduce clear anti-bullying policies, provide training on the policies to ensure awareness and most importantly to implement the policies if required.

Training and awareness

Provide training for managers to encourage professional respectful behaviour and leading by example. Provide appropriate support and advisory services where appropriate.

Ongoing communication

Provide a culture of promoting positive behaviours on an ongoing basis and ensuring those in senior roles lead by example and are actively involved in the communication.

Early Intervention

As a general principle, it is worth emphasising that early intervention offers the best possible potential for a good outcome, particularly regarding restoring workplace relationships.


Mediation is an important consideration for resolving issues at an early stage. It is an informal voluntary process where an impartial and competent third party enables individuals to work through conflict or disagreement, with a view to improving their relationship.

Informal Process

A prompt and informal problem-solving approach offers the best potential for addressing allegations of bullying effectively. In line with the Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work, the company policy should contain an initial and secondary informal process stages.

Formal Process

Where possible all avenues contained within the informal process should be exhausted before invoking the formal process. The decision to invoke the formal process should be evidence based from a management perspective once all aspects of the complaint have been reviewed. In addition, this decision needs to be documented. This process includes a formal complaint and a formal investigation which should be conducted in line with the rules of natural justice.

The purpose of an investigation is to set up a fact-finding approach and determine the facts and credibility or otherwise of a complaint of alleged bullying. The outcome of an investigation may eventually, separately lead to a disciplinary process being instigated in respect of the person complained of, but the investigation itself will be a fact-finding one with the focus on what occurred or did not occur. It is that some type of reconciliation or rehabilitative meetings, or team working session may be considered as appropriate to restore healthier working communication for the future post investigation. All parties should be given the right to appeal the outcome of the process. 

Unresolved Complaint

If full utilisation of the range of available internal procedures has not resolved a bullying complaint, the matter may be referred to a WRC Adjudicator under Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969.

If you require further information or advice on the above, please do not hesitate to contact our HR Consultants on (01)9014335 or (066)7102887 or email us at


This article is correct at 11/03/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline Reidy. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email

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