Workplace bullies in Ireland could be facing their comeuppance if tough new recommendations made by a bullying taskforce are adopted by the government.
Research has shown that a quarter of Irish workers claim to have been bullied in the past year and 7 per cent say they are victimised on a continuous basis.
And the taskforce has concluded that bullying is on the increase, with corresponding effects on workers' health as well as productivity.
To tackle the problem, the taskforce has recommended that Ireland's Labour Relations Commission (LRC) be given new powers to hear complaints about bullying and impose sanctions where necessary
Under current rules, bullying complaints are normally handled internally by companies themselves. As a result, workers who feel they have been victims of bullies often end up suing for constructive dismissal if they are unhappy with the outcome of these internal investigations.
The report also recommends that Ireland's Health and Safety Authority should have the power to monitor workplace policies on bullying.
The 16-strong taskforce, established nine months ago, is made up of academics , HR specialists, employers, trade unionists and lawyers.
One of its members, Professor Mona O'Moore, of Trinity College Dublin, told the Sunday Times:
"Legislation is all important. "Any recommendation that comes from an authority should be legally enforceable . . . that has been the problem to date. We all tend to respond when there are consequences, and, if there are not, there is a risk that people may not take the appropriate action."
According to the Sunday Times, the taskforce will recommend that both the victim and alleged bully can reject mediation in the workplace and can reject the outcome of any subsequent internal investigation.
However complaints that cannot be resolved internally will go to the LRC. Their verdict could then, in turn, be appealed in the Labour Court or the Employment Appeals Tribunal, with the final verdict verdicts enforced by the courts.
But the Sunday Times added that the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) was opposed to the rulings on complaints being legally enforceable and was concerned that efforts to manage poor performance by individuals could be misinterpreted as bullying.
"Any proposal must ensure that internal resolution procedures are exhausted before referral to a third party," he said.