Companies today need to developed anti-mobbing procedures as a market standard, fulfilling legal obligations, and proving that it has a responsible organisational culture. Having such procedures also help to effectively manage reputation risk.
While discrimination or harassment may affect a wide range of people – candidates, former employees or contractors, ‘harassment’ in the legal sense refers only to harassment in the case of employees employed under a contract of employment. ‘Mobbing’ itself is a rather narrowly defined in the Labour Code - it must be long-lasting, intentional, directed towards a specific employee and must have the character of a personal antipathy of the ringleader of the mobbing towards the victim. When preparing anti-mobbing procedures, it is worth bearing in mind that even if it turns out that these conditions are not met, and the reputation of the company has already been damaged, because it has been forced to announce publicly that it is dealing with a reported case of mobbing.
Any employee may become a victim of mobbing – regardless of whether they are a subordinate or a manager, and whether it takes place in relation to another employee of the company or, for example, with a client. Harassment cannot be determined on the basis of subjective impressions, but on the basis of objective criteria, which would be assessed in the same way by a person not personally involved in the case. It can happen that people who report bullying commit it themselves and treat their accusation as a kind of insurance.
What behaviour constitutes bullying?
Communication – constant, unconstructive criticism especially in front of others
Social relationships in which the bully avoids talking to the victim, isolates them and, especially when they are the superior, does not show implicit consent to contact between co-workers and the victim
The victim's reputation may suffer - when they are ridiculed, slandered or their competences are downgraded.
Harassment can affect the scope of tasks to be carried out – not to delegate them at all, or to delegate tasks that are impossible to carry out, or to congratulate someone for doing the job.
Harassment can affect the health of an employee through both chronic stress and direct intimidation with physical violence. However, it is usually a combination of these factors.
Bird & Bird’s experts discussed possible measures for the victim as well as solutions for employers, such as an Anti-Mobbing Commission – how to appoint one, who can be a member, and how to keep the balance of perspectives so that the case can be resolved objectively. Even if not every accusation ends in a statement of mobbing, it is still necessary to react to every report – remembering not only about the wellbeing of employees or the reputation of the company but also about the fact that the employee has the right to a labour court trial and a civil trial for violation of personal rights. The most important aspect, however, is the proactive building of an environment in which bullying simply will not have a chance to occur.
Internal HR departments, legal departments and external labour law advisors have many tools to prevent and respond to such situations at an early stage -- primarily through soft HR tools, well-written internal policies, codes of ethics and policies on conflicts of interest. Accusations of mobbing often overlap with the private lives of employees, which cannot be interfered with by the employer. However, with the help of a good policy on conflicts of interest, the employer can react to the transfer of relations from private life to professional life at an early stage.
In anti-mobbing procedures as well as in accusations of mobbing, it is extremely important to maintain impartiality, therefore, at every stage it’s worth obtaining expert opinions and involving external advisors on labour law in the proceedings.