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Dignity at Work

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The individual right to dignity at work is a fundamental employment right. Every individual has a right to a work environment free from bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. 

Such forms of behaviour can have a lasting detrimental impact on both the Employee and the Organisation as a whole, resulting in high absenteeism, stress-related illnesses, loss of key talent, reduced morale and engagement levels. 

The Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2012 set out a statutory framework to uphold equality in Irish workplaces. The Employment Equality Acts set out to prevent discrimination against Employees, agency workers and applicants for employment.  The purpose of the Acts is to eliminate discrimination in relation to employment and to provide a framework of enforcement to achieve this aim. 

The legislation sets out nine grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, and also sets out complaints procedures for a person to make a claim in relation to any act of discrimination to which they are subjected.  The legislation protects persons complaining of discrimination from victimisation, and prohibits employment related harassment and sexual harassment.

It is important for every Employer to be aware that they are obliged to provide a work environment free from harassment and bullying.  Where an Employer fails to do this, they can be held liable for the effects of harassment or bullying on their Employees.  In order to reduce the risk of exposure to liability, the Employer must be able to demonstrate that reasonable steps have been taken to eliminate bullying or harassment occurring, and where these issues arise, that appropriate steps are taken to prevent any further recurrence. 

One of the most effective ways in which Organisations can promote a positive working environment and prevent the occurrence of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment is to have a Dignity at Work Policy in place. This approach places a responsibility on each individual to maintain and contribute toward an environment which respects the right to dignity of all individuals.