Source: People Management magazine Date: 10 August 2006
Employers’ liability for harassment in the workplace has just been increased, thanks to an anti-stalking law
Stephen Ravenscroft and Alana Lowe-Petraske
The recent House of Lords decision in Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust (2006 UKHL 34) has caused a stir among employers, because it has confirmed an employer will be liable for employees’ acts of harassment if they take place in the course of their employment.
Majrowski was employed by the trust as a clinical auditor. He complained of being harassed by his manager, saying she had used abusive behaviour, fuelled by homophobia. The trust investigated his complaint and found harassment had occurred. Majrowski was later dismissed for an unrelated reason.
Four years later he began county court proceedings under section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, legislation intended to deal with stalkers. He claimed damages for distress, anxiety and consequential losses caused by the harassment. The claim was made against the trust rather than his manager on the grounds that it was vicariously liable as her employer.
The claim was struck out on the grounds the act could not create another level of liability in employment law. Majrowski appealed successfully to the Court of Appeal and the trust appealed to the House of Lords.
The House of Lords decided against the employer. The court accepted that the common law principle of vicarious liability should apply to harassment under the act, partly because the section applicable in Scotland appeared to provide for it. But the Lords confirmed employers’ liability would only arise where harassment occurred during employment and the employee’s actions were closely connected to the employment itself. So, employers can be held liable for their employees’ acts of harassment committed in the course of their employment, whether the victim is a co-worker or a third party.
“Harassment” has no statutory definition under the act, but would appear to cover any unwanted behaviour that is oppressive and unacceptable. It must be a “course of conduct”, happening on at least two occasions. Victims can claim any time within six years of the conduct happening.
Unlike harassment under anti-discrimination legislation, there is no defence available under the act for employers who have taken all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the harassment from occurring, and no requirement for the employee to raise a grievance in the first instance.
There may be legal arguments that an employer can use once a claim is brought under the act. If the employee has already claimed for harassment under the discrimination legislation, or for personal injury resulting from harassment under the law of negligence, normally the law will prevent them from taking a “second bite at the cherry”. Employers may also be able to argue the alleged perpetrator has not engaged in a “course of conduct” or that it was not “in the course of employment”.
Employers may be faced with a multiplicity of unfounded, speculative claims from employees as a result of this decision.
Blame and claim
Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, victims have the right to claim damages from the employer for the anxiety caused by the harassment, among other things, even though this outcome may not have been foreseeable and the employer has taken all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the harassment from occurring. Unlike a personal injury claim, there is no need for victims to produce medical evidence.
How to avoid a tribunal
The steps employers can take to avoid claims are broadly the same as those it should be taking to prevent harassment at work as part of an anti-discrimination strategy. These include:
giving managers anti-harassment training to help them spot workplace bullying and, perhaps, modify the behaviour of potential bullies;
providing clear guidance to employees about what behaviour is unacceptable;
monitoring rates of employee turnover that might indicate bullying is taking place;
taking any bullying complaints seriously and dealing with them without delay;
ensuring the waiver of claims by employees as part of a compromise agreement is carefully worded to include possible claims under the act.
Well-being Solutions Employee well-being is an important critical success factor in the modern organisation. Corporate health and well-being programmes that include building relationships provide more than an attractive and workable employee benefit, they can actually be a profitable investment. The ill health of employees is a key detriment of long-term profitability and competitiveness.In 2001, the HSE published “Tackling work-related stress: A managers’ guide to improving and maintaining employee health and well-being” (HSE Books). These guidelines encourage managers to manage and minimise the health risks associated with stress by taking a stress risk assessment approach. They advise managers to use the same five steps to assess stress risks as are used for other health and safety risks. These five steps are:
Identify the hazards
Decide who might be harmed and how
Evaluate the risks, by: Identifying what action you are already taking; Deciding whether it is enough; If it is not, deciding what more you need to do
Record the significant findings of the assessment
Review the assessment at appropriate intervals
Risk assessment and the Management Standards HSE launched the Management Standards on 3rd November 2004. The Standards cover six categories of work-related stress ‘hazards’:
THE MANAGEMENT STANDARDS (HSE 2004) DEMANDS Includes issues like workload, work patterns, and the work environment
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
The organization provides employees with adequate and achievable demands in relation to the agreed hours of work;
People’s skills and abilities are matched to the job demands;
Jobs are designed to be within the capabilities of employees; and
Employees’ concerns about their work environment are addressed.
CONTROL How much say the person has in the way they do their work
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
Where possible, employees have control over their pace of work;
Employees are encouraged to use their skills and initiative to do their work;
Where possible, employees are encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work;
The organization encourages employees to develop their skills;
Employees have a say over when breaks can be taken; and
Employees are consulted over their work patterns.
SUPPORT Includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organization, line management and colleagues
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
The organization has policies and procedures to adequately support employees;
Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to support their staff;
Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues;
Employees know what support is available and how and when to access it;
Employees know how to access the required resources to do their job; and
Employees receive regular and constructive feedback.
RELATIONSHIPS Includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
The organization promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness;
Employees share information relevant to their work;
The organization has agreed policies and procedures to prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour;
Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to deal with unacceptable behaviour; and
Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to report unacceptable behaviour.
ROLE Whether people understand their role within the organization and whether the organization ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
The organization ensures that, as far as possible, the different requirements it places upon employees are compatible;
The organization provides information to enable employees to understand their role and responsibilities;
The organization ensures that, as far as possible, the requirements it places upon employees are clear; and
Systems are in place to enable employees to raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities.
CHANGE How organizational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organization
The standard is that:
Employees indicate that the organization engages them frequently when undergoing an organizational change; and
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
What should be happening / states to be achieved:
The organization provides employees with timely information to enable them to understand the reasons for proposed changes;
The organization ensures adequate employee consultation on changes and provides opportunities for employees to influence proposals;
Employees are aware of the probable impact of any changes to their jobs. If necessary, employees are given training to support any changes in their jobs;
Employees are aware of timetables for changes;
Employees have access to relevant support during changes.
How will the Management Standards influence management practice? Organisational action the main emphasis
The Management Standards are more about organizational action in terms of risk assessment and benchmarking than individual management action. The model underlying the Standards is one of constant improvement. HSE want employers to conduct organizational stress risk assessments using the Management Standards as a template, in order to establish a benchmark of how well the organization is doing at preventing and reducing stress at work. Once a benchmark has been established, the employer should work to improve its performance over time. The ultimate goal is to reach the standards set now by the best 20% of employers (measured in 2004). HSE have developed tools and guidance to enable employers to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments. Managing ongoing risks
However, the Management Standards will also have a significant impact on all managers, because they are the people on the ground who manage stress risks in an ongoing way, and it is managers who must implement improvements introduced as a result of carrying out risk assessments. Notice that for each Standard, systems should be in place to respond to individual concerns. In reality, it is likely to be managers that will be responding, because if individuals have concerns about stress at work, managers will need to work with them to make adjustments so that risk is reduced. Managers can be trained to work proactively with teams to prevent stress at work, and to respond appropriately when stress-related problems occur, in order to reduce the risk of stress.
Source: People Management Date: Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Being bullied is a horrible, isolating experience – and worse still if the person you would normally go to for help was the culprit. But that kind of thing wouldn’t go on in an HR department… would it?
It was when the journalist said: “Your boss gave me your home number,” that Liz Jones, then a junior personnel manager, felt the final straw had come. Jones (not her real name) was due to give birth that day – and, no, she had not agreed to take press enquiries for the office.
“I was furious,” she recalls. “The bullying from this one middle manager had been going on for 18 months. I’d gone on maternity leave as early as possible to escape it and I knew I would have to take action before returning.” (See below)
Bullying happens in HR departments just as it does everywhere else. As with all bullying, it’s hard to quantify, because the vast majority of cases go unreported. But when PM recently published a news story about bullying in HR, the magazine was flooded by emails from readers sharing their experiences of being bullied within the profession.
Tracy Walters, head of diversity at Brent Council, thinks the function is bad at facing up to bullying in its own ranks. “HR doesn’t like being the patient,” she says. “We have a role in telling other people what to do, and we’re not very good at taking our own medicine.”
What this means is that if HR professionals are being bullied, they can feel even more isolated than other victims. “They are more likely to think they should be able to solve the problem themselves,” says Charlotte Rayner, professor of HRM at Portsmouth Business School, who has just completed a study on workplace bullying on behalf of the DTI and union Amicus. “HR people are habitually inward-looking when solving problems because they are guardians of confidentiality.”
On a practical level, there’s often nowhere for an HR person to go if the bullying occurs within the department, because anti-bullying policies are usually channelled through HR. Rayner, who has seen dozens of anti-bullying policies as part of her research, says very few offer multiple channels for people to go through. The advice is usually to contact your line manager or HR manager, formally or informally.
A consultant in this field, recently mediated in a bullying case where the alleged bully was a senior HR executive and “great mates with the head of HR”. The company policy simply “didn’t work for HR”, “Most anti-bullying policies don’t have a range of options that are low-level, informal and people-friendly,” she adds.
Rayner agrees that informal approaches are the way forward. Describing the DTI/Amicus research, she says: “We had gone into the exercise expecting to find that if an issue reached tribunal, everyone would feel it had been a failure. But what we actually found was that people felt it was a failure if it went to formal grievance. Changing the perception of the complaints system is difficult, so organisations need to find other, informal ways of tackling bullying.”
One problem, says Rayner, is that some HR practitioners believe complaints have to be made formally before they can be investigated. “HR people come from a careful culture, and for many the constant thought is: what if this ends up in court? HR as legal guardian is a classic role, and one it is highly valued for.”
The threat of legal action is, of course, a real one (see panel, above). Last summer Deutsche Bank in the City of London was ordered to pay £800,000 in damages for psychological injury and loss of earnings to an employee who had been bullied. Ben Willmott, CIPD adviser, employee relations, points out that if a legal case were ever brought against an HR professional, the courts might take an even dimmer view.
Ironically, says Rayner, the fear of legal action sometimes stops organisations probing the scale of the problem. “Organisations are sometimes told by their lawyers not to ask on the staff survey whether people have been bullied, because you will be more liable if you know there is a problem. The best companies receive that advice and ignore it, because they feel it’s more valuable to know.”
Rayner believes that while HR does have a role as legal guardian, the profession must not let that determine its thinking. “A legal mindset is not necessarily conducive to solving a human problem,” she explains. And bullying is very much a human problem. “Respondents to the DTI/Amicus survey said they thought 80 per cent of bullying was down to miscommunication that escalated into real interpersonal problems,” says Rayner.
This is the main reason why informal approaches are often so successful – because most alleged bullies don’t intend to be nasty. “Very few people deliberately go out of their way to make others’ lives a misery,” says Herbert. “Most people don’t realise how hurtful they are being. In a case I dealt with recently, when the woman found out the impact she was having on this man’s life, she burst into tears. Actually, she simply had a poor management technique and didn’t know how to handle someone who was driving her nuts, because he was very old-fashioned.”
Rayner says it’s often useful to make a first approach without using the “B” word – which is very loaded and ups the emotional ante before you’ve even started. “You can talk to someone off the record about management style or diffusing conflict, without mentioning bullying. The idea is to pop the balloon, not to blow it up further, to take the emotion out of it. None of us need to like each other, we just need to be able to work together,” she argues.
The experts also say it’s important to tackle the issue as early as possible, so that bad behaviour doesn’t become entrenched and end up defining the relationship between the people in question. As Herbert puts it: “If you talk to someone after the first time they have behaved unacceptably, it’s easier than after the twenty-fifth time. Apart from anything else, their first question will be: ‘Why didn’t you say anything before?'”
Charlotte Coupe, founder of Personnelise, a consultancy that helps people with problems at work, is a good example of why early action is so valuable. After being bullied herself for several months, Coupe eventually decided to keep a diary, and confronted her manager in a private meeting with chapter and verse on their unacceptable behaviour. “At first, my manager was outraged, but when they realised I had evidence, they admitted everything,” Coupe recalls. “They even apologised. I asked them why they had done it and they said it was because I had everything they wanted.”
Although Coupe was successful in putting an end to her boss’s bad behaviour, it was a hollow victory. “After the confrontation, my manager’s behaviour improved dramatically and everyone in the department benefited. But I just felt I had to get away. It had drained me so much, I was a wreck. I had gained little from the confrontation,” she says.
Coupe advises individuals who are being bullied to keep records of incidents. Despite her own experience, she believes relationships can be rebuilt after an allegation of bullying if the complaint is handled properly. “Often, a bully is misunderstood. They may have more insecurities than the person being bullied,” she says. “Throwing disciplinary action against people is usually a substitute for spending time getting to the root of the problem.”
Tracy Walters, who oversees Brent’s anti-bullying strategy as part of the authority’s Dignity at Work policy, says a huge effort has gone into changing the culture at Brent and setting up a series of avenues for individuals facing a problem. She says that since the introduction of Dignity at Work four years ago, most allegations of bullying have been sorted out at a low level, by talking to the harasser. “Usually the harasser doesn’t realise they’ve caused offence, or else it’s a line manager who is having problems managing someone,” she says.
Brent has trained advisers who can talk to both parties and facilitate. Anyone with a problem can pick an adviser, who is a member of staff combining the role with their day job. Since the system was introduced, says Walters, the number of formal grievances has fallen, although the number of people coming forward with issues has gone up.
“We don’t have a problem with bullying now, and I say that advisedly. We’ve put a lot of resources into it. The culture of the organisation has changed and morale has improved,” she says. “In my experience, people will only raise a formal grievance if there is no alternative.” And people in HR are perhaps the most reluctant to do so.
One person’s experience
“I was bullied for a couple of years as a junior personnel manager, by one of the middle managers in a public-sector organisation,” says Liz Jones (not her real name).”She did all sorts of things, some of which were very subtle and difficult to name – because they were done with such apparent reasonableness. She would watch me very closely; literally stand over me as I was working. She would put red lines through things I had written like a teacher at school. She would move goalposts. She removed some of my lines of authority without informing me and made inappropriate personal comments about my appearance that I found intrusive. She was just very destructive.
“It wasn’t only me,” Jones continues. “She was bullying two of us, but the other person left. We tried to raise the issue with her together once, but she just blanked us.
“As part of my job, I even sent her on harassment training and she came back and said: ‘Liz, I realise that all those behaviours they were talking about, I do them to you.’ I thought, great, now she knows. But she just carried on.
“I raised it with the HR director, but he was reluctant to do anything because she was his appointee. It did occur to me to speak to someone else, but the person I would have been happiest approaching was PA to the chief executive, and she would have told him and all hell would have broken loose. Plus, by that time I had developed a victim mentality.
“It was quite a long time before I really decided I had to do something. She gave a journalist my home number while I was on maternity leave, without warning me, on my due date. I was furious. I knew I couldn’t go back without doing something about it. I contacted my union rep and we went through mediation.
“The mediator was very skilled. I found it really upsetting to recall events and to listen to this manager defending herself. She thought it was just ‘robust management’. I spent a lot of time crying. She did acknowledge that she had hurt and upset me and I had a lot of forgiving to do. Mediation is hard. You have to go into it being prepared to make yourself vulnerable, and you have to be prepared for resolution.
“Things were better after the mediation, but it was too late: the damage had been done. I stayed on for 18 months and she left before me. I was determined that she would go first because, apart from her, I loved my job.”
Bullying and harassment: where the law stands
Bullying claims are often complex both to bring and defend. Although “bullying” is not defined by statute, discrimination law sets out a legal definition of harassment. It is unwanted conduct that violates an individual’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for an individual. The motive is irrelevant.Employees can resign and claim constructive dismissal on the grounds of bullying or harassment under the Employment Rights Act 1996, but they must establish the employer has breached a contractual term for example, the duty to provide a safe place of work. Those subjected to harassment and bullying can also bring claims in the civil courts, the most common being for personal injury.
Employees have also used the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which applies to “a course of conduct” causing anxiety or distress in the workplace, rather than a single incident.
Remedies vary depending on the statute and type of court involved. Awards for breach of contract will be capped at £25,000 in employment tribunals, but there is no limit on damages in the civil courts, or under the discrimination legislation.
Ranjit Dhindsa is an employment partner and head of the Midlands practice at Reed Smith
What does bullying cost your business?
Use the following information to calculate the direct and indirect costs of bullying and to make a business case for tackling the problem in your organisation.Direct costs
Cost of people leaving:
Research suggests that 25 per cent of people who have been bullied and 20 per cent of witnesses leave the organisation. So first calculate the average employee replacement cost, including HR and management time before, during and after interview, plus training costs and time before a new recruit becomes fully effective. Bullying rates are likely to be similar throughout the hierarchy so use an average replacement cost.
Now consider the incidence of bullying in your organisation. Estimate a “normal figure” of 10 per cent if you have no data. Then multiply the total number of people in the organisation by the estimated incidence rate of bullying and by 0.25 (the typical proportion of people who leave) to get to the cost of replacing employees who have been bullied. Add to this witness replacement costs, based on a conservative estimate of two witnesses per situation.
Take, for example, an organisation with 1,000 employees, 10 per cent bullying incidence and £10,000 average replacement costs.
Cost of replacing targets of bullying:�
1,000 x 0.1 (incidence) x 0.25 (proportion who leave) x £10,000 (replacement cost per person) = £250,000
Cost of replacing witnesses:�
1,000 x 0.1 (number of targets) x 2 (witnesses per target) x 0.20 (proportion who leave) x £10,000 (cost per person) = £400,000�
Targets + witnesses = £650,000 in totalOther direct costs include early retirements and severance payments of other types that can be tracked back to bullying. Investigations and legal action are also costly. The largest component will usually be management time, followed by HR time and legal costs.
Bullying has a ripple effect on employees’ commitment and morale and therefore reduces productivity. Putting a number on this can be difficult, but if you are making a business case, anecdotes can be as effective.
Bad publicity from legal cases damages an employer’s reputation and makes recruitment harder. Customers and buyers may also be affected. In the voluntary sector, funding may be jeopardised.
Charlotte Rayner is professor of HRM at Portsmouth Business School
How can organisations deal with bullying?
Define the problem – Bullying comes in many guises, so consult widely with the workforce and trade unions and define bullying. Create local or organisation-wide statements about what is and is not “okay behaviour”, and make sure everyone understands them. Update these statements annually.
Povide managers with appropriate skills – Give managers the skills to deal informally with bullying before problems escalate. They must understand that they must not bully others. Do not appoint managers who have no people management capability.
Overhaul organisational systems – Monitor levels of bullying, complaints, sickness and exit rates and the activities of support groups, including harassment advisers and union reps. Get a team together to create objectives, such as reductions in the incidence of bullying. Look at the data annually and use it to inform training and coaching. Watch out for hot-spots of leavers and carry out further investigations – for example, via exit interviews – but recognise that even ex-employees may be reluctant to mention anything negative. Have a formal anti-bullying policy, but try to use it as little as possible. It needs to include ways of dealing with malicious complaints and of reintegrating employees who complain about bullying, as well as a route for HR staff to take complaints.
Provide individual support – Offer as many forms of support as possible, both for victims and anyone accused of bullying. If your organisation is unionised, give reps time to develop informal relationships with local managers and HR staff. That way, all three will be able to deal with situations early and informally.
Support the supporters – Ensure everyone concerned is aligned to the anti-bullying strategy, and gives and receives feedback, while at all times protecting identities.
Compiled by Charlotte Rayner, professor of HRM, Portsmouth Business School | firstname.lastname@example.org. | See www.port.ac.uk/workplace bullying for the full Amicus/DTI report on bullying.
Written by: Clive Lewis Date: Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The recent news that increasing numbers of civil service staff are overturning dismissals because government HR departments are failing to follow statutory dismissal procedures is not particularly surprising. It was reported last week that the annual report by the Civil Service Appeal Board (CSAB) showed more than one-fifth of all disciplinary cases involving appeals during 2005-06 were deemed ‘unfair’ – a rise of 15% on the previous year.
The introduction of the grievance and disciplinary procedures has meant that thousands of HR professionals are spending an increasing amount of time on a transactional process that adds little value. Legal costs have also risen as HR functions seek advice to ensure that they follow correct procedure. The CIPD Managing Conflict at work survey of 2004 indicated that dealing with conflict is taking up more and more HR time. Over 60 per cent of respondents said they had seen an increase in the use of HR departments to resolve individual disputes in the previous 12 months. At that stage employers said they were spending an average of 10.5 days per case dealing with disciplinary and grievance issues. A little less than the 12.5 days they said they were spending preparing for a tribunal case.
The number of grievance cases lodged with employment tribunals also rose by a third during the last financial year. Claims initially fell by one quarter after the 2004 dispute resolution rules came in. But the latest Employment Tribunals Service (EST) figures show a surge in claims from 86,181 to 115,039 over the 12 months to the end of March.
As a HR director, I recall an ever-increasing percentage of my time was being taken up with discussions about the disciplinary and grievance process. It got to the stage where a large chunk of the Monday morning team meeting was carved out for updates on cases that my team was dealing with. Whilst cases such as gross misconduct probably warrant time being spent on the process, the merit for other cases is less clear-cut.
There are only three ways in which disputes can be resolved. Through power, rights or interests. Power based conflict resolution techniques such as a boss imposing their orders on a direct report, generate a great deal of damage because they create winners and losers, destroy important relationships and only lead to potential further disputes.
Rights based methods such as legislation, litigation and the grievance and disciplinary procedures were introduced to allow disputes to be resolved and encourage individuals to interact more peacefully. The exercise of rights is often perceived by those in power as diluting their authority. Rights-based processes similarly create winners and losers. While power-based relationships focus on preserving hierarchy and obedience, rights-based processes focus on enforcing contractual language and rarely lead to closure. The grievance and disciplinary process has proved to be unwieldy and imperfect for the improvement in human interaction. Both power and rights based methods focus on suppressing or settling conflicts rather than resolving and preventing them.
Interest based processes such as workplace mediation on the other hand, focuses on finding common ground and seeking to understand why people came into conflict in the first place. Interest based approaches focus therefore not just on what people want, but why they want it. As a result people are encouraged to learn from each other and work more collaboratively.
Mediation also offers the advantage that it can be undertaken in tandem with the grievance and disciplinary process, as it is without prejudice. If mediation doesn’t work (and it does in more than 80% of cases) then the tortuous disciplinary and grievance procedures can continue their trajectory. It is only through interest-based processes that everyone’s ability to learn from and prevent further conflict is increased.
Mediation differs from litigation in that the mediator is not a judge or arbitrator who decides the issues for the parties. It is a process that invites the participants to be creative, collaborative and responsible for solutions. It is future-oriented and less concerned with deciding whom is right or wrong than with solving problems so they do not occur again.
There are many reasons that can explain why workplace mediation is now becoming an increasingly used method of dispute resolution for employee conflicts. These include the high increase in the number of employee tribunal cases, the higher levels of compensation, the continuing introduction of new employment legislation and, for many, the realisation that formal procedures and investigations can in some circumstances be so adversarial and stressful to all concerned that any possibility of people working together again is minimal. Workplace mediation is based on the principles of encouraging constructive communication in a safe and confidential environment, identifying mutual solutions and agreements and restoring respectful, professional working relationships.
The CIPD survey Managing conflict at work (27 October 2004) stated, “Awareness needs to be raised about how mediation can make a difference to managing workplace disputes. It needs to be part of the process from the start of the problem, not used as a sticking plaster once relationships have already broken down.”
Progressive organisations that have adopted mediation principles within their HR practices are beginning to see the benefit that this brings. HR functions also have the opportunity to engage in a transformational HR process that will be seen by their internal customers as a great value add tool.
It is only after workplace mediation has begun to be utilised across UK businesses (including Whitehall) that we will begin to see a reduction in the grievance and disciplinary statistics that we are now seeing.
Source: People Management magazine Issue date: 10 August 2006
Line managers need to focus on working with employees individually to identify and manage their causes of stress
It is simply not possible to remove all sources of stress at work but, according to our recent research, empowering line managers to manage stress among their teams will help to reduce some of its consequences, such as: poor morale, reduced performance and team conflict. The research, Managing Stress, shows that line managers, rather than HR, are predominantly responsible for managing stress within their teams, and 67 per cent of these say they would “probably” or “definitely” benefit from training or development in this area.
Taking time off was the least commonly reported way of managing stress. Survey respondents were more likely to take on work challenges than to avoid them, and to manage their stress proactively through planning, prioritising and delegating work.
Yet 33 per cent said the support they got was “rarely” or “never” adequate, and 42 per cent said they were unable to prevent repeated stress from the same cause. Line managers therefore need to focus on working with employees individually to identify and manage their causes of stress.
1 Create a supportive culture
Macho cultures where stress is denied are at risk of extreme reactions when it does occur. A supportive work culture is one where employees feel they can speak openly about stress, and where asking for help is not seen as a sign of weakness. One way of encouraging such a culture is to ensure that one-to-one and team meetings explicitly address issues such as workload and clarity of objectives.
Research consistently shows that the most effective support comes from people’s direct managers. Employees who feel their line manager is willing and able to support them suffer fewer negative effects of stress. In contrast, those who do not have the benefit of their manager’s support experience poor health and reduced job satisfaction during times of change and peaks in workload. A supportive manager can therefore “buffer” the impact of work stresses, as can support from peers and colleagues.
2 Appreciate people’s differences
Although some jobs are inherently stressful, one person’s stress can be another person’s challenge. For example, while some people are terrified at the prospect of giving presentations, others thrive on public speaking.
People’s reactions depend not only on whether they can do the tasks necessary for their role, but also on whether they will find it enjoyable or stressful to be doing these things as often as is required. Identifying the personality characteristics as well as the key competencies that suit different job roles can help to ensure the right people are matched to the right job, particularly when recruiting.
3 Recognise the signs of stress
When under stress, people react in different ways. One person will become reflective, thinking through the issues and potential solutions, whereas another can become verbose, seeking advice and support. Under extreme pressure, one person may “explode”, while another will withdraw completely.
Line managers need to be able to recognise these different signals and know their team members well enough to understand what type of support they need in times of stress. While some employees will appreciate the opportunity to talk things through and discuss their reactions, others will want practical advice to get them through the situation. Personality questionnaires can help to identify these individual needs.
4 Resolve issues as they arise
Left unresolved, even apparently small issues can grow into a source of stress. Be prepared to address issues such as workload prioritisation, office layout and personal disagreements as they arise. Anticipate that any kind of workplace change, from a complete organisational restructure through to repainting the walls, can unsettle employees. Make sure that the people factors in any change are thought through and addressed.
5 Consider teambuilding
Developing good working relationships can be crucial to preventing work stress 84 per cent of survey respondents say relationships can cause stress and 90 per cent believe relationships can help to manage stress.
Focused teambuilding events can help to build effective work relationships. They can raise awareness of individual differences in the experience of, and reactions to, stressful situations, and help team members to understand how they can work together effectively and resolve interpersonal conflicts.
Unfortunately, all too often the progress achieved during a teambuilding event can dissipate once everyone is back at work. Effective teams embed the lessons learnt into their everyday business processes. Regular team meetings enable staff to share what they are doing, understand their own and each other’s workloads and build a supportive team culture.
6 Enable autonomy
A demanding, high-pressure job need not be stressful. There is a considerable body of research demonstrating that people can manage sustained high workload without negative effects if they have control over how they manage this workload. There are many ways to provide flexibility for your employees, including flexible work hours, homeworking and devolving decision-making within the role. When employees are more satisfied with their working conditions, their working hours will be more productive.
7 Remember remote workers
The rise of remote working has great potential to reduce stress. Relieving individuals of a tedious daily commute can help them to manage their work-life balance, and working from home typically provides considerable autonomy for managing individual work tasks.
However, out of sight can mean out of mind. Talk to your remote workers and find out what support they need. Requests could be varied in nature, covering requirements such as regular virtual team meetings, IT support, or access to information from the wider business.
8 Have a contingency plan
While it is desirable to prevent stress occurring, it is inevitable that symptoms of stress will arise from time to time, whether as a result of unavoidable work pressures, or personal events outside of work. Whatever the cause, it is important to have plans in place to enable an effective response when the need arises. Options include employee assistance programmes, peer support networks and stress management interventions. For many people, simply being aware that such support is available can reduce anxiety.
Top tips for preventing stress
Carefully assess different job roles to identify the skills and competencies required.
Consider the personality characteristics required by a role at the recruitment stage, to ensure a good match between people and job roles.
Remember that people respond in different ways to pressure.
Give staff control over their workload and a high level of autonomy to buffer the negative effects of stress.
Understand your employees’ individual needs and responses in times of stress.
Use teambuilding to create a supportive work environment that will help people to manage the effects of stress.
The CIPD and the Health and Safety Executive have commissioned research aimed at identifying the line management behaviours associated with the effective management of stress at work. See Study notes, PM 1 June 2006, and the next edition of PM for more details.
outlines the decline in formal industrial relations work in organisations
describes what HR professionals think of as ’employee relations’
assesses the state of the employment relationship
discusses how to secure an engaged workforce and the skills required of employee relations specialists
includes the CIPD viewpoint.
What is employee relations?
The term ’employee relations’ was conceived as a replacement for the term ‘industrial relations’ but it’s precise meaning in today’s workplaces needs clarification. In 2004/5 CIPD undertook research into the changing nature of employee relations work in UK organisations, through interviews with HR and Employee Relations managers to provide a snapshot of current attitudes and practice. The findings are reported in our recent Change Agenda1 and are summarised in this factsheet.
The decline of ‘industrial relations’
‘Industrial relations’ is generally understood to refer to the relationship between employers and employees collectively. The term is no longer widely used by employers but summons up a set of employment relationships that no longer widely exist, except in specific sectors and, even there, in modified form.
The decline can be measured on a number of different dimensions. From a peak of some 12 million plus, union membership has fallen to around 7 million today. Between 1980 and 2000, the coverage of collective agreements contracted from over three-quarters to under a third of the employed workforce. At the same time, the range of issues over which bargaining took place decreased massively. The Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) 19982 showed that union officials spent most of their time not on negotiating pay and conditions but in supporting grievances on behalf of individual members. Even where collective bargaining continued, its impact on the exercise of management discretion was greatly diminished.
The shift in the coverage and content of collective bargaining has been reflected in a dramatic reduction in industrial action since 1980. The number of working days lost per 1,000 union members decreased from an annual average of 1,163 in the 1970s to 76 in the 1990s.
What do employee relations mean for employers?
Some broad conclusions emerging from research are:
Employee relations can be seen primarily as a skill-set or a philosophy, rather than as a management function or well-defined area of activity. The emphasis of employee relations continues to shift from ‘collective’ institutions, such as trade unions and collective bargaining, to the relationship with individual employees. The ideas of ’employee voice’ and the ‘psychological contract’ have been accepted by employers and reflected in their employee relations policies and aspirations (see our factsheet on Managing the psychological contract for more information). Employee relations skills and competencies are still seen by employers as critical to achieving performance benefits through a focus on employee involvement, commitment and engagement.
Employee relations is seen as strategic in terms of managing business risk: both the downside risk of non-compliance with an expanded body of employment law, and the upside risk of failing to deliver maximum business performance. What is the state of the employment relationship?
The early findings of the WERS 20043 give a mixed picture of the state of employee relations. Managers in 30 per cent of workplaces report that relations have improved a lot since 1998. However, employees’ views have changed little over the period. Despite the introduction in April 2005 of the Employee Information and Consultation Regulations (see our Employee Information and Consultation Regulations factsheet), the current survey records a decline in the incidence of joint consultative committees.
A key issue for managers is focus. Are they directing their attention to the issues that will make a real difference to business performance? There is strong evidence that a positive psychological contract with employees will lead to superior economic performance, but managing the psychological contract appears to figure fairly low in the list of management, and specifically of the HR function’s, priorities: in our survey Where we are, where we’re heading4, only one in two respondents placed employee involvement among the top five priorities for the HR function in their organisation.
What is employee engagement?
The achievement of business goals and financial returns is increasingly dependent on delivery by front-line employees. ‘Engagement’ has been described as a combination of commitment and organisational citizenship. These are both shown by CIPD surveys to be routine outcomes of a positive psychological contract.
There is no shortage of evidence about people management policies and practices that contribute to building employee engagement. They include:
Employee voice: Research for the CIPD by Professor Mick Marchington5 shows that managers are much more convinced than they were a decade ago that involvement produces business benefits. This is confirmed by the range of methods for direct communication and recognising individual employee contribution that HR departments now implement and operate.�
Teamworking: WERS 19982 commented that ‘training, teamworking, supervisors trained in employee relation matters and problem-solving groups are all associated with one another. In combination, this group of practices might be construed as a model of direct employee participation in decision-making.’�
Work-life balance: Policies on work-life balance are being used by employers to underpin positive workplace behaviours. Our various surveys of employee attitudes, for example Guest and Conway6, have underlined the link between work-life balance, commitment and performance, and there is strong support by employers for the current legislation giving employees the right to request flexible working. See our factsheet on Work-life balance for more information on this topic.
There are clear links with the business performance model constructed by John Purcell and his colleagues at Bath University7. The model focuses on the implementation of HR practices by line managers, and on employees’ ability, motivation and opportunity to practise discretionary behaviour. Employee relations can be seen as a critical ingredient in the ‘black box’.
How do HR professionals display employee relations competencies?
Communication is the glue that makes policies real and without which they are ineffective. The fact that communication is necessarily a two-way process, involving dialogue rather than simply instruction, is well established. Yet many organisations perform badly in this area, failing to give communication the priority it deserves.
Getting communication right involves both professionalism and persistence. The qualities required include focusing on positive behaviours and outcomes, taking a positive, problem-solving approach, anticipating problems, recommending solutions and being able to offer sound advice to senior managers about implementation. Negotiating skills are still useful but needed less often. A much wider area of knowledge is now required, along with the skills to apply it, including surveying and interpreting employee attitudes, communications and conflict management. Most important is the ability to ‘fit’ policies and practices to suit the organisation’s goals and the character of its workforce.
Managing workplace conflict
Although workplace conflict is no longer reflected in high levels of industrial action, the ability to manage conflict remains a key issue for many organisations. Mediation as a method or technique of resolving workplace issues represents an important shift from the traditional industrial relations framework, with its emphasis on formal discipline and grievance procedures, towards more of a ‘win-win’ approach consistent with the philosophy of HR management.
The decline of industrial relations means that managers may need to be reminded that employees’ interests are not necessarily identical with those of their employer; that despite the decline in strikes and other forms of industrial action, workplace conflict still needs to be managed; and that HR management philosophies may understate the ‘messy realities’ of managing people.
What is the continuing value of employee relations?
To a considerable extent, it is only in the public sector that trade unions retain a measure of their former strength and influence in the workplace. This is partly through the existence of institutions of collective consultation, reinforced by continued reliance in many cases on industry-level bargaining and the public policy emphasis on ‘partnership’.
Union influence in the private sector, on the other hand, continues to decline. The main areas of the private sector where industrial disputes are still experienced from time to time, for example, public transport, are those where there’s a clear public or political interest and/or the Government is seen as the ultimate ‘banker’. ‘Employee relations’ as a term remains ambiguous, with no clear boundaries. Few organisations outside the public sector now have employee relations departments, and most HR people don’t use the term on an everyday basis. It is not calculated to help managers focus on what they need to know and do to increase performance â€“ the language has echoes of a historical era that offers few insights into contemporary practice.
The traditional academic models of industrial relations have only limited relevance to what managers do today. Employers are in charge and the role of ‘joint control’ and ‘rule-making’ by employers and trade unions has been substantially replaced by employment regulation and organisational values. Employee relations can nevertheless point to an underlying philosophy and attitudes and skills that are still needed by HR practitioners. The current ‘business partner’ model is helpful in identifying an ‘added value’ framework within which HR practitioners need to operate, but an unreflecting business focus may lead to a neglect of the softer skills, which are essential to managing the employment relationship, and of employee interests and influence. Employers also need HR managers with a positive, ‘can do’ attitude who will resist the temptation to adopt a defensive or compliance-led HR culture. Commitment and engagement are crucial to performance but they are not consistently high enough in the hierarchy of line management â€“ or, often, HR â€“ priorities. The Employee Information and Consultation Regulations may be helpful in raising the profile of employee voice and involvement, but the WERS 20043 findings give little basis for optimism that this will happen.
More effort needs to be put into training and supporting line managers in, for example, teamworking and change management as the basis for establishing and maintaining motivation and commitment, which is a critical role for employee relations managers. Issues about ‘alignment’ of HR and business strategies have mostly to be resolved within this area. There is too much focus within organisations on strategy formulation and planning, and not enough on implementation and delivery. Managing the employment relationship rests heavily on the shoulders of line managers, but their competence in this area is, in general, seriously neglected. The concept of engagement is helpful in promoting wider interest in the measurement of HR outputs, including through the widespread use of employee attitudes surveys and in performance management/appraisal systems.
Engagement offers managers a framework for monitoring a range of indicators, including employee attitudes and behaviours, of the state of the employment relationship. But beyond that, it represents an aspiration that employees should understand, identify with and commit themselves to the objectives of the organisation they work for. What does this mean for employee relations specialists? It means being more strategic and seeing the ‘bigger picture’. It means being familiar with a wide range of techniques and skills, including mediation and communications. But, ultimately, it may also mean asserting more strongly the employee interest and agenda. This may not fit well with a management culture still based on ‘command and control’: it’s a genuinely transformational message. But without some significant progress in this direction, both high-performance working and strategic business partnering are unlikely to succeed (see our factsheets on High performance working and Strategic business partnering for more information on these topics).
CIPD research underlines the continuing significance of good employee relations:
Managers see employee attitudes and commitment as contributing to business performance via better employee contributions and productivity gains. The psychological contract model, validated by successive employee attitude surveys, suggests that HR practices strongly affect the way people feel about their work.
The informal climate of involvement and consultation appears to be more strongly associated than collective machinery for negotiation and consultation with employee satisfaction and commitment. Mechanisms in use for employee voice include two-way communications, project teams and joint consultation but there is also growing interest in electronic media, attitude surveys and ‘partnership’.
The major constraints on employee commitment are lack of skills and enthusiasm on the part of managers and employees.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT. (2005) What is employee relations? Change Agenda. London: CIPD. Available at http://www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas
CULLY, M., WOODLAND, S. and O`REILLY, A. (1999) Britain at work: as depicted by the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey. London: Routledge.
KERSLEY, B., ALPIN, C. and FORTH, J. (2005) Inside the workplace: first findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS 2004). London: Economic and Social Research Council.
EMMOTT, M. (2003) HR survey: where we are, where we’re heading. Survey report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at http://www.cipd.co.uk/surveys
MARCHINGTON, M. et al. (2001) Management choice and employee voice. Research report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
GUEST, D.E. and CONWAY, N. (2004) Employee well-being and the psychological contract: a report for the CIPD. Research report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
PURCELL, J. at al. (2003) Understanding the people and performance link: unlocking the black box. Research report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
CIPD members can use our Advanced Search to find additional information on this topic. Books DANIELS, K. (2006) Employee relations in an organisational context. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Journal articles
BRADLEY, D. (2004) Polar vision. People Management. Vol 10, No 18, 16 September. p17.
CRAIL, M. (2005) Beyond dispute? Prospects for workplace peace in our time. IRS Employment Review. No 824, 27 May. pp9-13.
EGAN, J. (2005) Evolution, not revolution: the changing face of the workplace. IRS Employment Review. No 832, 30 September. pp8-15.
discusses the difference between equal opportunities and diversity
outlines the business case for diversity
suggests ways in which to manage diversity, with tips for action
includes the CIPD viewpoint.
This factsheet summarises the key issues on diversity, an area where CIPD has played a central role in setting the agenda and developing debate. It is based on our guide Managing diversity: people make the difference at work – but everyone is different1. It does not cover legal aspects in any depth as these are covered by separate factsheets – see the links within the text below.
What is diversity?
People are not alike. Everyone is different. Diversity therefore consists of visible and non-visible factors, which include personal characteristics such as sex, race, age, background, culture, disability, personality and work-style. Harnessing these differences will create a productive environment in which everybody feels valued, their talents are fully utilised and organisational goals are met.
CIPD defines diversity as valuing everyone as an individual – valuing people as employees, customers and clients.
But there is no single way of treating employees, as each one will have their own personal needs, values and beliefs. It follows that the notion of best practice, while helpful in a theoretical setting, will not provide all the answers in reality. There are multi-variables and many shades of grey – a fuzzy and complex world that relies on approximate reasoning.
How the concept has developed
Changes in the social and economic landscape led to legislation covering equal pay, sex and racial discrimination in the 1970s, followed by disability laws in the 1990s. More recently, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and religion has been added to the list covered by the law, at least partly driven by European legislation. All these initiatives were grounded in developing a level playing field for disadvantaged groups; in other words, ending or reducing discrimination and improving social justice. They can therefore be described as being about equal opportunities rather than diversity, and by the 1990s it was being recognised that they had had limited success in achieving their goals.
In the early 1990s, American writers argued for a shift from equal opportunities to diversity because the equal opportunities approach was insufficiently holistic in its attempts to eradicate discrimination (some disadvantaged groups were not represented, or were not adequately represented), and because those who were represented were regarded as homogeneous groups (although, for example, each disabled employee requires individual consideration). At around the same time, researchers were also finding that culturally diverse teams were more creative than homogenous teams and contributed more effectively to meeting organisational goals. Thus there was a business case for diversity, although coping with it would be much harder than simply managing equal opportunities to meet legal requirements.
Three separate commissions have been established, covering gender, race and disability discrimination, to promote equality and monitor their particular aspects of the legislation. Under the Equality Act 2006, a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights is to be established in 2007 to cover all equality issues, including the new age discrimination legislation being implemented from October 2006, as well as issues of human rights.
Unemployment is twice as high among people from ethnic minorities, although there are relatively more Chinese, Indian and Black African graduates than white graduates. Only 12 per cent of white men are in professional occupations, as opposed to 21 per cent of Chinese and Indian men.
White men have the lowest rate of participation in full-time education between the ages of 16-24 (37 per cent), followed by white women (40 per cent). 41 per cent of white women in employment work part-time, but only 7 per cent of white men do so, as opposed to 38 per cent of Bangladeshi men.
Black and Asian people are 2.5 times less likely to have jobs than whites. Ethnic minorities account for 8.1 per cent of the overall population. Because they are relatively younger, it is projected that ethnic minorities will account for half the growth in the working population to 2009.
In the past ten years, the employment of the over-50s has risen by almost 25 per cent. The number of people aged over 60 is forecast to rise by 40 per cent in the next 30 years.
The social justice or equality case
The social justice argument is based on the belief that everyone should have a right to equal access to employment and when employed should have equal pay and equal access to training and development, as well as being free of any direct or indirect discrimination and harassment or bullying. This can be described as the right to be treated fairly, and nowadays the law sets minimum standards in terms of pay, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, harassment and bullying, and from October 2006, age.
For more information on these topics, see our factsheets on: Age and employment, Disability and employment, Harassment at work, Race, religion and employment, Sex discrimination, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and employment.
The business case
Why should any employer want to push the boundaries set by the law? Equal opportunities is often seen as meaning treating everyone in exactly the same way. But to provide real equality of opportunity, people often need to be treated differently in ways that are fair and tailored to their needs. Arguably, the social justice and business case arguments for diversity are complementary, because unless people are treated fairly at work they will feel less than fully committed and will therefore under-perform. But diversity takes equality forward, and evidence indicates that organisations that are serious about diversity show better overall financial performance.
There are three broad strands supporting the case for going beyond what is required by legislation and introducing diversity policies: people issues, market competitiveness, and corporate reputation. Organisations which follow them are also more likely to find it easier to comply with increasingly complex legal obligations, not least because diversity will be embedded in their cultures.
Research shows that people aspire to work for employers with good employment practices, and to feel valued at work. To be competitive, organisations need to derive the best contributions from everyone. Skill shortages and difficulties in filling vacancies are forcing more organisations to recruit from more diverse pools and to offer different employment packages and working arrangements. Creating an open and inclusive workplace culture in which everyone feels valued helps to recruit and retain good people.
Employers who offer good working conditions benefit from more positive and committed employees, who are less likely to leave.
Employees who are happier at work are less likely to suffer from stress or become sick, leading to fewer disruptions in production or service.
Good employers will receive more applications for jobs, leading to a larger pool of talent to choose from.
A diverse workforce will be more creative and innovative.
Diversity policies also help organisations to:
Quality assure policies and working practices because diversity fits well with business excellence models and initiatives such as Investors in People and total quality management.
Create an environment in which people from all backgrounds can work together harmoniously by combating prejudice, stereotyping, harassment and undignified and disrespectful behaviour.
Bring about cultural change.
A diverse workforce can help to inform the development of new or enhanced products or services, open up new market opportunities, improve market share and broaden an organisation’s customer base. Examples include:
Financial institutions addressing the needs of ethnic-minority businesses.
Local authorities seeking to improve the way they provide services to diverse groups within their communities.
The Foreign Office recruiting from a wider pool so that embassy staff give a more accurate and balanced image of Britain.
Supermarkets offering products to satisfy a wider range of eating preferences.
Health services seeking to provide more choice for patients recognising their backgrounds and requirements.
Healthy businesses flourish in healthy societies and the needs of people, communities and businesses are interrelated. Social exclusion and low economic activity rates limit business markets and their growth. Thus businesses need to consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the context of diversity. CSR is usually thought of as being linked to environmental issues, but an increasing number of employers take a wider view, seeing the overall image of an organisation as important in attracting and retaining both customers and employees. Indeed, it can be argued that CSR is part of the psychological contract between a firm and the community or communities in which it operates. CSR measures may include:
Employing people who are representative of the local community.
Seconding employees to charities.
Supporting other initiatives designed to stimulate economies and employment, locally, nationally, or (in the case of multi-nationals) even globally.
Ethical behaviour is important too. Setting standards by means of value statements (and ensuring that they are adhered to) sends messages to present and potential customers, suppliers and employees.
Leading-edge ‘dignity at work’ policies require that all forms of intimidating behaviour, including racial harassment and bullying, are regarded as contravening the values of an organisation and are treated as serious disciplinary matters.
Managing diversity is about ensuring that all employees have the opportunity to maximise their potential and enhance their self-development and their contribution to the organisation. It recognises that people from different backgrounds can bring fresh ideas and perceptions, which can make the way work is done more efficient and make products and services better. Managing diversity successfully will help organisations to nurture creativity and innovation and thereby to tap hidden capacity for growth and improved competitiveness.
But how to go about it? It is a complex task and every organisation will have to do it differently. The lead needs to come from the top. Unless the chief executive and board members are committed, change will not occur. It requires systematic management action, with a focus on the development of an open workplace culture in which everyone feels valued and can add value. It is a continuing process, and is at least partly about managing conflict, complexity and ambiguity.
Ultimately organisations should aim to make managing diversity a mainstream issue, owned by everyone so that it influences all employment policies and working practices.
Excellence in communications is central. People must be willing and able to talk to each other and listen to each other, and respect different views and ideas.
Figure 1 suggests how organisations can move from where most are at present to a situation in which diversity enters the mainstream.� Figure 1: Managing diversity – how to move equity forward�
Tips for action
Although there is no single ‘right way’ to go about managing diversity, the following tips may help organisations considering diversity policies.
Ensure that initiatives and policies have the support of the board and senior management.
Remember that managing diversity is a continuous process of improvement, not a one-off initiative.
Develop a diversity strategy to support the achievement of business goals, including ways of addressing the diverse needs of customers.
Focus on fairness and inclusion, ensuring that merit, competence and potential are the basis for all decisions about recruitment and development.
Keep up to date with the law and review policies through checks, audits and consultation.
Address work-life balance challenges in ways that take account of employee and organisational needs and offer suitable choices and options.
Encourage ownership and discourage risk aversion, aiming to create an empowering culture so that decisions are not passed upwards without good reason.
Design guidelines for line managers to help them respond appropriately to diversity needs, as they are vital change agents, but give them scope for flexible decision-making.
Link diversity management to other initiatives such as Investors in People and total quality management.
Be aware that if your organisation operates internationally, its approach to managing diversity will need to take account of the ways that individual working styles and personal preferences are influenced by national cultures.
Introduce a value system based on respect and dignity for all.
Aim to describe the desirable behaviours to gain positive commitment.
Make clear that everyone has a personal responsibility to uphold the standards.
Introduce mechanisms to deal with all forms of harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour, making clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated and setting out the consequences of breaking the organisation’s behaviour code.
Develop an open culture with good communication channels based on open dialogue and active listening.
Use different and accessible methods such as newsletters, in-house magazines, noticeboards and intranets to keep people up to date with diversity policies and practices.
Consult people for ideas.
Build diversity concepts and practices into management and other training and teambuilding programmes to increase awareness of the need to handle different views, perceptions and ideas in positive ways.
Consider awareness-raising programmes about diversity and skills training to help people work together better in a diverse environment.
Include diversity issues in induction programmes so that all new employees know about the organisation’s values and policies.
Train line managers about diversity, aiming to help them understand the issues and drive them into organisational and operational policies and practices.
Measure, review and reinforce
Regularly audit, review and evaluate progress and keep qualitative data to chart progress and show business benefits.
Use employee surveys to evaluate initiatives, to find out if policies are working for everyone, and to provide a platform for improvement.
Track actions to see if they have had the intended results and make appropriate changes if necessary.
Include diversity objectives in job descriptions and appraisals, and recognise and reward achievement.
Benchmark good practice against other organisations and adopt and adapt relevant ideas where appropriate.
Network with others from inside and outside your organisation to keep up to date and to share learning.
Celebrate successes and identify learning opportunities from failures, to use them as building blocks for further progress.
CIPD believes that recognising and valuing diversity is central to good people management practices. HR practitioners have an important role to play in creating inclusive workplaces where everyone can contribute to the success of the organisation. There is a compelling business case which should encourage organisations to look beyond legal compliance with anti-discrimination laws to a value-added approach enabling competitive benefits to be gained from developing good practice. Employers who sit on the sidelines regarding diversity will quickly become less attractive to existing and prospective employees.
WORMAN, D., BLAND, A. and CHASE, P. (2005) Managing diversity: people make the difference at work â€“ but everyone is different. Guide. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/guides CIPD has carried out annual surveys and various research on the psychological contract.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT. (2006) Diversity in business: how much progress have employers made? First findings. Surevy report. London: CIPD. Available at: http://www.cipd/co.uk/surveys
DANIELS, K. and MACDONALD, L.A.C. (2005) Equality, diversity and discrimination: a student text. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
MACDONALD, L.A.C. (2004) Equality, diversity and discrimination: how to comply with the law, promote best practice and achieve a diverse workforce. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
MULHOLLAND, G., OZBILGIN, M.F. and WORMAN, D. (2005) Managing diversity: linking theory and practice to business performance. Change agenda. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas
PEARN KANDOLA. (2006) Managing diversity. 2nd ed. CIPD toolkit. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
TATLI, A., OZBILGIN, M.F. and WORMAN, D. (2006) Managing diversity: measuring success. Change agenda. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas
THOMAS TAYLOR. W., PIASECKA, A. and WORMAN, D. (2005) Managing diversity: learning by doing. Change agenda. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas
WORMAN, D. and WILLIAMS, P. (2005) Driving diversity progress: messages from a showcase of CIPD research. Change agenda. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas
ALLEN, K. (2004) Implementing a diversity strategy. Equal Opportunities Review. No 126, February. pp13-19.
ARKIN, A. (2005) Hidden talents. People Management. Vol 11, No 14, 14 July. pp26,28-30.
THOMAS, D.A. (2004) Diversity as strategy. Harvard Business Review. Vol 82, No 9, September. pp98-108.
Understanding the change process is key to diversity success. (2005) IDS Diversity at Work. No 13, July. pp7-11.
explains about employment practices which do not discriminate on the grounds of age
sets out recommendations and an action plan for avoiding the use of age and age-related criteria in employment
concentrates on discrimination against older workers
includes the CIPD viewpoint.
What is age discrimination?
Although there is no statutory definition of age discrimination as yet in the UK, age discrimination can be explained as occurring when someone treats a person less favourably because of that person’s age, and uses this as a basis for prejudice against and unfair treatment of that person.
Age discrimination in employment can:
affect anybody regardless of how old they are
reduce employment prospects for older people, younger people and parents returning to work after a period of full-time childcare
favour people in the age group 25 to 35
prevent the full consideration of abilities, potential and experience of employees.
Our recent survey1 found that age discrimination remain a significant problem in the workplace with 59 per cent of respondents saying they have been disadvantaged because of their age.
The legal position
Age discrimination is the main area of discrimination which is protected in some other countries but which is currently not directly protected in the UK. This will change from 1 October 2006 when the government will introduce age discrimination legislation – the final version of the regulations was published on 9 March 20062. The October date is in advance of the December deadline set by the Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) which requires the UK to implement national legislation preventing age discrimination.
Age discrimination can take many forms. In legal terms, it will follow the same pattern as existing forms of discrimination law in the UK, namely direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment. CIPD members can find details of the new regulations and their legal implications for employers, including the transitional procedures for retirements, in our Age discrimination and retirement FAQ in the Employment Law at Work area of our website.
Go to the Age discrimination and retirement FAQThe Age Partnership Group (APG), of which CIPD is a founder member, is funded and co-ordinated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is comprised of organisations that represent the different needs of small, medium and large employers, as well as those who work directly with or provide information to employers and employees. APG has issued guidance3 which lists 10 key points about the new regulations:
Age regulations are due to come into force on 1 October 2006. The regulations cover employment and vocational training. This includes access to help and guidance, recruitment, promotion, development, termination, perks and pay. The regulations cover people of all ages, both old and young. All employers, providers of vocational training, trade unions, professional associations, employer organisations and trustees, and managers of occupational pension schemes will have new obligations to consider.
Goods, facilities and services are not included in the regulations. Upper age limits for unfair dismissal and redundancy will be removed. A national default retirement age of 65 will be introduced making compulsory retirement below age 65 unlawful (unless objectively justified).
All employees will have the ‘right to request’ to work beyond the default retirement age of 65 or any other retirement age set by the company and all employers will have a ‘duty to consider’ requests from employees to work beyond 65. Occupational pensions are covered by the regulations, as are employer contributions to personal pensions. However, the regulations generally allow pension schemes to work as they do now. The regulations have more details. The regulations do not affect state pensions.
In June 1999 the Government published a voluntary Code of Practice Age diversity in employment4 together with implementation guidance and case studies to show how a number of employers have tackled age discrimination. The Code sets out good practice principles to adopt in recruitment, selection, promotion, training and development, redundancy and retirement and reflects the advice given in this factsheet. There is growing evidence, through initiatives such as Age Positive, that UK employers are already taking voluntary action to regulate their own working practices.
The business case
It is estimated that age discrimination costs the economy between £19 and £31 billion a year in lost output. To be successful in an increasingly competitive market place, organisations need to attract and retain valuable employees and develop the talents of all their employees.
Some key points:
More people are living longer, active and healthier lives5.
Evidence shows that differences in absenteeism between age groups are slight.
Older workers stay in their jobs longer than younger people.
Age discrimination leads to under-achievement, reduced self-confidence and motivation, lower self-esteem and loss of personal income and status.
Findings from many studies show that younger and older workers are on average equally effective in their work.
Research shows that, given the right training, older people are just as capable of learning new skills as younger people.
As life expectancy increases and the birth rate remains low, the proportion of the population aged over 65 will increase dramatically. Older people will become an ever more significant proportion of the population and society will increasingly depend upon the contribution they can make. In their publication Opportunity age: meeting the challenges of ageing in the 21st century6 the DWP gives details of the demographic shifts that are expected over the next few decades. The Government has stated that the best way to offset the impact of future changes in the age structure of society is to reduce levels of inactivity. Around 1 million people choose to work beyond state pension age already and the Government aspires to encourage a million older workers to do so, thereby maintaining the ratio of workers to non-workers in the economy at about the same in 2050 as it is now. Research information1 shows that there is a keen appetite amongst older employees for flexible working and flexible pensions and statistics indicate that activity levels for older female employees are expected to continue to rise.
Recommendations for employers
Employers need to prepare now for the new legislation by bringing all their policies and procedures into line with the new requirements, and seeking advice where necessary. Many employers have already taken action on age discrimination as a way of keeping ahead of their competitors and some companies, including B&Q, Asda, HBOS, Barclays Bank, GlaxoSmithKline and Nationwide, have adopted policies specifically to attract older workers.
Age discrimination is a pervasive issue and the challenges of tackling it and ‘age proofing’ employment policies and practices are complex and take time. Each stage of the employment cycle should be examined as discrimination can occur throughout a person’s working life. All those involved in making decisions about the employment and training of people need to understand the implications of age-stereotyping.
Recruitment and selection
Age, age-related criteria or age ranges should not be used in advertisements other than to encourage applications from age groups which do not usually apply. Where this is the case, it should be clearly stated.
It is desirable to state that age criteria will not be taken into account in employment decisions but used only for monitoring purposes. This information can be asked for in a ‘tear-off’ section of the application form and be kept separate from the application process.
Interviewers and those concerned with selection must not be subjective on the basis of physical characteristics and unfounded assumptions, and must ensure their decisions are based on objective criteria, relevant to the job and merit.
An individual’s age should not be used to make judgments about their abilities or fitness. Where such a judgment is required, an occupational health or medical practitioner should be consulted.
Pay and terms of employment should not be based on age, but should reflect the value of individual contributions and standards of job performance.
Training and development
All employees should be eligible for training and development programmes as there is the potential to waste talent if particular age groups, eg those near retirement, are automatically excluded.
Retention and redundancy
When releasing employees, the organisation’s future needs for knowledge, skills and competencies should be taken into account â€“ the ‘corporate memory’ needs protection.
Alternatives to redundancy should be considered, such as shorter hours, part-time working, contractual arrangements, secondments and perhaps employment breaks.
Alternatives to retirement may be considered, such as shorter hours, part-time working, contractual arrangements, secondments and perhaps employment breaks.
Seventy per cent of 50-year olds stay on in work until state pension age. Research from CIPD1 indicates that many older workers would welcome an opportunity:
for phased retirement for flexible working
to work beyond the normal retirement age
to work on a self-employed basis
to work in the voluntary sector.
Organisations should also consider the advantages of using retirees as mentors to pass on experience and develop other employees through use of their knowledge and expertise. Our research shows that many organisations do this.
An action plan
Scrutinise all personnel policies, practices and procedures because age discrimination can:
occur anywhere in the employment cycle from recruitment to redundancy
be blatant or subtle, direct or indirect.
Implement policy as part of an approach to diversity and equality.
Use only objective criteria essential for satisfactory performance, and ensure these can be objectively justified.
Communicate policy to all managers and employees, and offer training where necessary.
Stance and key actions
Undertake an age audit.
Do not rely on age, age guidelines and age-related criteria.
Challenge the use of age and age-related criteria in every aspect of employment decision-making.
Educate and train all staff about the implications of age discrimination.
Use dates of birth only for monitoring purposes and administration. Give written assurances on this to gain the confidence and trust of job applicants and ensure staff making employment decisions follow this commitment.
Monitor the age profile of the organisation at regular intervals to identify evidence of unfair discrimination against particular age groups.
Consider ways of making sure that all age groups have access to development and promotion opportunities.
CIPD is committed to the removal of age discrimination in employment because it is wasteful of talent and harmful to both individuals and organisations. The use of age, age bands and age-related criteria reduces objectivity in employment decision-making and increases the likelihood of inappropriate decisions.
Employment decisions based on age are never justifiable because:
age is not a genuine employment criterion
age is a poor predictor of performance
it is misleading to equate physical and mental ability with age
when age is used, it tends to be a proxy for underlying factors, such as health or ability to drive, for example.
The efficient and effective use of people’s skills requires that employment decisions should be based on competencies, qualifications, skills, potential and objective job-related criteria obtained through careful analysis of job requirements and job performance.
CIPD believes there is an important business case for employers to take action to remove age discrimination and has undertaken research and published guidance to raise awareness and educate personnel practitioners and employers about the issues involved. Organisations need to understand this business case and appreciate how competitive benefits can be gained from developing good practice. This will motivate them to implement progressive change and interpret the impending legal duties in positive ways which go beyond a minimum approach to compliance.
Although CIPD recognises that the law can help to effect change in employment practice, self-regulation based on increased understanding is favoured as the best way to encourage employers to deal with age discrimination.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT and CHARTERED MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE. (2005) Tackling age discrimination at work: creating a new age for all. London: CIPD. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/surveys Equality and diversity: age discrimination in employment and vocational training [online]. (2006) London: Department of Trade and Industry. Available at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/employment/discrimination/age-discrimination/index.html
AGE PARTNERSHIP GROUP. 20 key facts your business needs to know. London: Department for Work and Pensions. Available at: http://www.agepositive.gov.uk/newsDetail.cfm?sectionid=44&newsid=590
DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT. (1999) Age diversity in employment and Age diversity in employment: guidance and case studies. Code of practice. Nottingham: Department for Education and Employment. Current version available at http://www.agepositive.gov.uk/
SEAGER, A. (2006) Government statistician counts on us living and working longer. The Guardian. 13 January. Available at http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,16781,1685360,00.html
DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS. (2005) Opportunity age: meeting the challenges of ageing in the 21st century. London: DWP. Available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/opportunity_age/
SMETHURST, S. (2006) State of mind. People Management. Vol 12, No 1, 12 January. pp.24-29.
SUFF, R. (2004) Using age-diversity policies to attract and retain older workers. IRS Employment Review. No 808, 24 September. pp42-48.
VICKERSTAFF, S. (2005) Managing the older workforce. Equal Opportunities Review. No 137, January. pp6-10.
This factsheet gives introductory guidance. It looks at:
why organisations change
defines the different models for change
introduces change strategies
comments on organisational and individual issues
considers HR’s role and how change can be managed more effectively
includes the CIPD viewpoint.
Why organisations need to change
Many things cause organisational change. These include:
challenges of growth, especially global markets
changes in strategy
customer pressure, particularly shifting markets
to learn new organisation behaviour and skills
Research indicates that organisations are undergoing major change approximately once every three years, whilst smaller changes are occurring almost continually. There are no signs that this pace of change will slow down.
In this context managers have to be able to introduce and manage change to ensure the organisational objectives of change are met, and they have to ensure that they gain the commitment of their people, both during and after implementation.
For these reasons, it is important that the way change is managed is carefully considered by organisations. Whilst each change situation will be unique, there are still a number of common themes that will help ensure that the change process stands the greatest chance of success.
The different models of change
Much has been written on the subject of change, and various models of change proposed. The three main, contrasting models are from Lewin and Beer1 and Shaw2.
This model considers that change involves a move from one static state via a state of activity to another static status quo. Lewin specifically considers a three-stage process of managing change: unfreezing, changing and re-freezing. The first stage involves creating a level of dissatisfaction with the status quo, which creates conditions for change to be implemented. The second stage requires organising and mobilising the resources required to bring about the change. The third stage involves embedding the new ways of working into the organisation.
Beer and colleagues advocate a model that recognises that change is more complex and therefore requires a more complex, albeit still uniform set of responses to ensure its effectiveness. They prescribe a six-step process to achieve effective change. They concentrate on ‘task alignment’, whereby employees’ roles, responsibilities and relationships are seen as key to bring about situations that enforce changed ways of thinking, attitudes and behaving. Their stages are:
Mobilise commitment to change through joint diagnosis.
Develop a shared vision of how to organise.
Foster consensus, competence and commitment to shared vision.
Spread the word about the change.
Institutionalise the change through formal policies.
Monitor and adjust as needed.
This model looks at change in a different form. Change is seen as both complex and also evolutionary. The starting point for their (and a number of other more recent models) model is that the environment of an organisation is not in equilibrium. As such the change mechanisms within organisations tend to be ‘messy’ and to a certain extent operate in reverse to the way outlined by Lewin. It is not appropriate to consider the status quo as an appropriate starting point, given that organisations are not static entities. Rather the forces for change are already inherent in the system and emerge as the system adapts to its environment.
Such different models will have implications on the way organisations and their leaders view change, the way they manage change and the effectiveness of any change initiative.
Some example change strategies
These can be considered as the different strategies and procedures that are used to categorise the change environment. The relevance of different change strategies is that they build upon different assumptions about human motivation and hence willingness to engage in change at a particular point in time. Four differing views are presented below. These strategies are not intended to be mutually exclusive. Rather they may each be appropriate at a different stage of a particular change process. Once the environment is identified, an effective implementation plan can be composed.
This approach believes that changing the norms, attitudes and values of individuals will lead to changes in their behaviours. (As such this strategy is the reverse of the model Beer et al propose above.) It is based upon core beliefs, values and attitudes. So change will occur as individuals change their attitudes and this leads them to want to behave differently.
This strategy is based on persuasion, and assumes that individuals are rational and as such they will follow their own self-interest once this is made clear to them. The benefits of a change therefore need to be highlighted and sold to the individuals as being of personal benefit to them.
This strategy is based on the application of power, with the belief that most people are compliant to those who have greater power. A potential issue with this process is that once the power is removed, individuals may revert to previous behaviours.
This focuses on problem solving, looking at problems and focussing on remedial actions.
Why is change management relevant?
Change management is relevant as though the research finds that change is taking place at an ever-increasing pace, the evidence suggests that most change initiatives fail. For example, recent CIPD research suggested that less than 60% of re-organisations met their stated objectives which are usually bottom line improvement. This is consistent with other published research.
The impact of failures to introduce effective change can also be high: loss of market position, removal of senior management, loss of stakeholder credibility, loss of key employees.
Finally, one organisational response to change is that organisational forms are themselves evolving. Therefore, the change management response will have to be adaptive. For example, the increased competitive challenges and the need to be responsive to the changing environment are resulting in emerging organisational models. Traditional organisational models following functional or matrix lines are being supplemented by new models. These might rely on project teams, on networks, on virtual structures.
In theory, certain of these newer models, for example virtual and project-based structures, allow increased flexibility to respond to change. However such models are not always introduced uniformly, and in practice often introduce other issues that also impact upon change management, for example ability to share knowledge and to operate efficiently. Also, as more companies rely on these â€˜new structuresâ€™, for example, sub-contractors and agency staff, the traditional psychological contract between organisation and employee can no longer be relied upon to elicit employee engagement, motivation and ultimately superior performance, all of which are particularly important in times of change. These â€˜structuresâ€™ may also impact effectiveness of communication, which again has implications for change effectiveness.
What issues have been identified in the change management process?
A large number of issues have been identified as having negative impact on effective change management. Some of the key themes are identified below, covering organisational issues and individual resistance to change.
Individual change initiatives are not always undertaken as part of a wider coherent change plan, for example through considering linkages between strategy, structure and systems issues. Therefore a change that considers a new structure but fails to establish the need to introduce new systems to support such a structure is less likely to succeed.
Lack of effective project management and programme management disciplines can lead to slippages in timings, in achievement of desired outcomes, in ensuring that the projects do deliver as planned.
Insufficient, relevant training, for example in project management, change management skills, leadership skills can all impact negatively on the effectiveness of any change initiative.
Poor communication has been linked to issues surrounding the effectiveness of in achieving effective change in various ways. For example, imposed change can lead to greater employee resistance (see section below also).
Finally, lack of effective leadership has been identified as an inhibitor of effective change.
Individual/group resistance to change
Resistance to change can be defined as an individual or group engaging in acts to block or disrupt an attempt to introduce change. Resistance itself can take many different forms from subtle undermining of change initiatives, withholding of information to active resistance eg via strikes.
Resistance to change can be considered along various dimensions:
individual versus collective
passive versus active
direct versus indirect
behavioural versus verbal or attitudinal
minor versus major.
Similarly two broad types of resistance can be considered:
Resistance to the content of change – for example to a specific change in technology, to the introduction of a particular reward system.
Resistance to the process of change. This concerns the way a change is introduced rather than the object of change per se, for example, management re-structure jobs, without prior consultation of affected employees.
Management need to be aware of these different criteria to ensure they respond appropriately.
Suggested reasons for resistance include: loss of control, shock of new, uncertainty, inconvenience, threat to status, competence fears. It is important to try to diagnose the cause of employee resistance as this will help determine the focus of effort in trying to reduce/remove the issue.
What can be done to make change management more effective?
From the issues raised in the section above, it can be seen that change is complex and there is not a single solution. However, a number of key areas of focus emerge.
Effective leadership is a key enabler as it provides the vision and the rationale for change. Different styles of leadership have been identified, for example coercive, directive, consultative and collaborative. These different styles may each be appropriate depending on the type and scale of change being undertaken. For example, when there is a large-scale organisation-wide change a directive style has been identified as most effective.
Appropriate and timely training is frequently identified as key to effective change. Examples of training requirements might include:
Project and programme management skills to ensure change initiatives are completed both on time and to budget.
Change management skills, including communication and facilitation. leadership coaching.
Two-way communication with employees (see our factsheet on Managing the psychological contract) and their active involvement in implementation has also been identified as a key enabler of change. Active participation is one suggested means of overcoming resistance to change. However, research has indicated that part of the communication/participation issue might arise from a potential mismatch between what the employer and employee opinions are regarding levels of communication. For example, in a recent study of both employers and employees, employers believed they were involving and communicating with employees at a considerably higher level than was reported by employees.
Finally, linking all the change initiatives within an organisation coherently, rather than completing changes in isolation is vital to ensure that change effectiveness is maximised. CIPD research has identified seven areas of activity that make successful change happen – ‘the seven c’s of change’:
Choosing a team.
Crafting the vision and the path.
Connecting organisation-wide change.
Coping with change.
HRâ€™s role in change management
People management and development professionals have significant role to play in any change management process. Arising from CIPD research, HRâ€™s involvement in certain areas was identified as sometimes being the difference between successful and less successful projects:
Involvement at the initial stage in the project team
Advising project leaders in skills available within the organisation â€“ identifying any skills gaps, training needs, new posts, new working practices etc
Balancing out the narrow/short-term goals with broader strategic needs.
Assessing the impact of change in one area/department/site on another part of the organisation.
Being used to negotiating and engaging across various stakeholders.
Understanding stakeholder concerns to anticipate problems.
Understanding the appropriate medium of communication to reach various groups.
Helping people cope with change, performance management and motivation.
Organisational change is increasing, yet the high levels of failure indicate that effective management of these changes is still lacking. Such a gap indicates that there is much to learn about how to manage change more effectively. From this fact sheet it can be seen that there is no single model of change and no single solution to effective management.
At present, HR professionals are not always seen as having the appropriate skills to lead on change management initiatives, and are therefore not actively included within the change process. However, many of the issues that are identified concern the ‘people aspects’ of change. HR would therefore appear to be ideally placed to ensure such issues are appropriately and effectively addressed. To achieve this aim HR will need to ensure it has the skills and credibility within the organisation to act as champions of change in the future.�
sets out the many forms and grounds of harassment at work
outlines how harassment affects people and organisations
examines the legal implications if employers allow such behaviour to go unchallenged
gives guidance about the key steps to eliminate harassment and what policies are needed
includes the CIPD viewpoint.
What is harassment and why does it happen?
Harassment is any unwanted behaviour that violates dignity or creates an intimidating, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment can take many forms and occur for a variety of reasons. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexuality or any personal characteristic of an individual. It may be directed at one person or many people. Often it takes place when there are no witnesses, but not always. It can be persistent behaviour over a period of time, but a one-off act may also amount to harassment.
It is not the intention of the perpetrator that is key in deciding if harassment has occurred, but whether the behaviour is unacceptable by reasonable normal standards and is disadvantageous or unwelcome to the person or people subjected to it or witnessing it. In the CIPD survey1 13% of respondents reported experiencing harassment or bullying in the past 12 months. It is important to distinguish sexual harassment from sexual relationships freely entered into and acceptable to those involved.
Harassment thrives in a workplace culture where it is ignored rather than challenged. No complaints do not mean no harassment is happening. Harassment can lead to illness, absenteeism, less commitment, poor performance and resignation. The conflict which harassment creates should not be underestimated. Employees can be subject to high levels of personal stress which can damage morale and lead to higher labour turnover, reduced productivity, lower efficiency and divided teams.
There needs to be a clear, well-communicated policy so people know the process to follow if they have concerns about the way they, or their colleagues, are being treated. They need to be confident that making a complaint will not result in further intimidation or victimisation for themselves or anyone else involved.
What are the grounds and forms of harassment? Grounds
UK discrimination law was amended in 2003 to cover harassment on a variety of grounds including disability, colour, ethnic or national origin, race, religious belief or other similar philosophical belief, and sexuality. Since October 2005 implementation of the Equal Treatment Amendment Directive means the Sex Discrimination Act contains a specific prohibition against harassment and sexual harassment.
There is no one checklist of what defines harassment as it is often specific to the person, relating to their feelings of respect and dignity.
Individuals are protected from discrimination both while applying for a job, during it, and after the working relationship ends (for example in terms of the provision of a verbal or written reference). There is also protection for people against harassment on the basis of their membership or non-membership of a trade union and, in Northern Ireland, against harassment on the basis of political belief.
Harassment and bullying can range from extremes such as physical violence to less obvious forms like ignoring someone. Forms of harassment include:
jokes, offensive language, gossip, slander, sectarian songs and letters
posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems
isolation or non-cooperation and exclusion from social activities
coercion for sexual favours
pressure to participate in political/religious groups
intrusion by pestering, spying and stalking
failure to safeguard confidential information.
Harassment can also exist as a result of the general prevailing culture, for example one in which it is acceptable to tell homophobic jokes.
Who is responsible when harassment happens at work?
Harassment has a negative effect on employees and employers, and both have responsibilities when it happens.
Employers need to take action to prevent harassment, encourage incidents to be reported, respond promptly and ensure policies are followed correctly. Legally, they have a common law duty of care, and responsibilities under health and safety and discrimination legislation. CIPD research shows that employers need to provide a positive working environment to satisfy employeesâ€™ expectations under the psychological contract (see our factsheet on the Managing the psychological contract).
Employersâ€™ responsibilities extend to any environment where work-related activities take place. These include social gatherings organised by the employer such as work parties or outings (when they are held at a time or place associated with the workplace). Organisations must maintain their commitment to promoting an open and non-threatening environment on these occasions. If they do not, the employer could be liable unless they were able to show they took reasonable steps to prevent harassment.
An employer can be ordered to pay unlimited compensation where harassment has occurred, including the payment of fines for injury to feelings.
Individuals can be prosecuted under criminal as well as civil law and they could be personally liable and have to pay compensation themselves, as well as any payment the organisation may be ordered to make.
Individuals also have a responsibility to behave in ways which support a hostile-free working environment for themselves and their colleagues. They should play their part in making the organisationâ€™s policy a reality and be prepared to take appropriate action if they observe or have evidence that someone else is being harassed.
What actions are needed to tackle harassment?
Policies, communication and training
The sensitivities surrounding harassment have important implications for the design of effective policies and procedures to prevent it occurring. A well-designed policy statement is an important first step in addressing harassment and should cover all the complexities of intimidating behaviour, including bullying. Policy statements should be agreed with union representatives. Another CIPD survey2 showed that in 2004, 91% of organisations had a diversity or equal opportunities policy, 83% had harassment or bullying policy and 39% had a policy covering dignity at work. A policy does not automatically change cultures and behaviours, so senior management support and communicating the policy is essential, through staff handbooks and intranet, induction and training programmes, and appraisal interviews.
Policy statements should:
give examples of what constitutes harassment and intimidating behaviour – it is also useful to define positive and supportive behaviours
explain the damaging effects and why it will not be tolerated
state that it will be treated as a disciplinary offence
clarify the legal implications of harassment
describe how to get help and make a complaint, formally and informally
undertake that allegations will be treated speedily, seriously and confidentially
promise protection from victimisation for making a complaint
clarify the responsibilities of line managers, HR departments and the role of union or employee representatives
make it the duty of supervisors/managers to implement policy and ensure it is understood
emphasise that every employee carries responsibility for their behaviour.
Policies should be communicated so that all employees:
know their rights and personal responsibilities under the policy
understand the organisationâ€™s commitment to deal with harassment
are aware of who to contact if they want to discuss their experiences in order to decide what steps to take
know how to take a complaint forward and the timescales for any formal procedures.
Any policy should be monitored for effectiveness, including:
records of complaints, who was involved and where, why and how they occurred
individual complaints to ensure resolution and no victimisation.
Regular reviews are important to ensure policies and procedures are appropriate and effective. Employers can find out about experiences of harassment and levels of confidence in the policy and procedures through general employee attitude questionnaires or specific surveys, or through informal feedback, return-to-work interviews after periods of absence, appraisal discussions, training feedback or exit interviews.
Training can prevent harassment being accepted or condoned. Those with responsibility for implementing the policy should be given specialist training.
Dealing with complaints
Complaints should never be ignored but investigated swiftly and confidentially ensuring the rights of all are protected. An employer who fails to investigate has little defence at an employment tribunal. Procedures should provide informal and formal mechanisms for raising complaints. Clear time-scales should be set for the resolution of complaints, taking account of legal limitations.
Advice and counselling
Employees should be able to contact a nominated person, who may be a trained volunteer colleague, to discuss their experiences in the strictest confidence. This can help complainants decide what course of action to take by exploring their options. The decision to progress a complaint should rest with the individual. However, complainants should be encouraged not to ignore behaviour that makes them uncomfortable, but to take appropriate action so that the behaviour stops. The consequences of not taking action should be explained.
Nominated contacts for harassment should be carefully selected and trained. Their role should be independent of investigations and they should not be required to provide evidence in proceedings. They should receive ongoing support from management to fulfil this brief. They should understand the nature of the issues related to different forms and grounds of harassment and intimidating behaviour. They should also be able to talk with complainants freely and confidentially in a private environment. They can come from all departments and levels of an organisation.
Mediation is an increasingly useful tool in managing conflict at work, including harassment issues where difficult personal issues are involved, and it is often one individualâ€™s word against anotherâ€™s. Mediators can come from outside or inside an organisation.
Guidance and counselling can be offered to people whose behaviour is unacceptable, as well as those affected by being harassed. Simply punishing those responsible for the harassment risks isolating individuals who may not understand how their behaviour is affecting their colleagues. Sometimes people are unaware of, or insensitive to, the impact of their actions and counselling can help them to accept the impact of their behaviour, change behaviour or prevent further incidents. Being clear about what is acceptable behaviour at work, as well as defining unacceptable behaviours, will prevent ambiguity and stop harassment flourishing.
Ideally, complaints should be dealt with internally and informally. Solutions can be reached quickly, with minimum risk to confidentiality. It pays to act quickly to reduce personal embarrassment and suffering, avoid disruption to work and working relationships and, where complaints are contested, expensive litigation costs and damaged business reputations.
In many cases it is sufficient for the recipient of harassment to raise the problem with the perpetrator, pointing out the unacceptable behaviour. But if an employee finds this difficult or embarrassing, informal procedures should enable support from a colleague, an appropriate manager or a personnel department representative. A choice of contact should be available in case the personâ€™s manager is the harasser.
Formal procedures are needed if the harassment is serious, if it is the individualâ€™s preference or where an informal approach has failed. Some modification to grievance procedures may be needed for this and employees must know to whom they should make a complaint â€“ for more information see our factsheet on Discipline and grievance procedures.
Harassment should be treated as a disciplinary offence. Investigation procedures should provide:
a prompt, thorough and impartial response
independent, skilled and objective investigators
representation for both parties
complaint details, the right to respond and adequate time to respond
a time-scale for resolving the problem
confidentiality for all parties.
A record of complaints and investigations should always be made. These should include the names of the people involved, dates, the nature and frequency of incidents, action taken, follow-up and monitoring information. All sensitive information should be treated confidentially and meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 – for more information see our factsheet on Data protection.
After the procedure
Where a complaint is upheld it may be necessary to relocate or transfer one party. It should not automatically be the complainant who is expected to move, but they should be offered the choice where practical.
Where the perpetrator is transferred, no breach of contract must occur or a claim of constructive dismissal could arise. Transfers on disadvantageous terms can be offered to the perpetrator where allegations are proved, as an alternative to dismissal.
If a complaint is not upheld, a voluntary transfer of one of the employees should be considered. It is important to check the harassment has stopped and there has been no victimisation or retaliation.
Achieving high levels of performance from people at work is essential in todayâ€™s competitive market place. Organisations should treat any form of harassment seriously not just because of the legal implications, but because it can lead to under-performance at work. Eliminating all forms of harassment and bullying makes good business sense. A workplace environment which is free from hostility enables people to contribute more effectively to organisational success and to achieve higher levels of job satisfaction. People cannot make their best contribution when under fear of harassment, bullying or abuse.
An organisationâ€™s public image can be badly damaged when incidents of harassment occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This can affect relationships between an employer, their current and future employees, as well as their customers.
Developing and implementing preventive policies and procedures creates a climate of greater confidence in being able to challenge harassment. The right policies and procedures enable employers to tackle individual complaints quickly and effectively.
An organisationâ€™s goal should be to develop a culture in which harassment is known to be unacceptable and where individuals are confident enough to bring complaints without fear of ridicule or reprisal. Everybody needs to feel responsible for challenging all forms of harassment and for upholding personal dignity.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT. (2004) Employee well-being and the psychological contract. London: CIPD.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNLE AND DEVLOPMENT. (2004) Managing conflict at work: a survey of the UK and Ireland. London: CIPD.
ADVISORY CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION SERVICE. (2005) Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for managers and employers. London: ACAS. Available at: http://www.acas.org.uk/
TEHRANI, N. (2005) Bullying at work: beyond policies to a culture of respect. Guide London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at http://www.cipd.co.uk/guides
CORSI, J. (2005) A goodbye kiss for harassment. People Management. Vol 11, No 19, 29 September. p20.
Mind your language. (2003) People Management. Vol 9, No 18, 11 September. p17.
SIMPSON, S. (2002) How to deal with aggression at work. People Management. Vol 8, No 8, 18 April. pp52-53.
WOLFF, C. (2006) Ousting the workplace bully: learning from experience. IRS Employment Review. No 841, 17 February. pp8-17.