- Bullying at the workplace
You can also find a wide range of information about bullying at the workplace on the website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health > Toimiva työyhteistö - työpaikkakiusaaminen.
Bullying at the workplace is continuous negative treatment. It may be e.g. insulting, subduing, invalidation or other unjust treatment. Becoming an object of bullying hampers well-being and strength, which puts the object of bullying to a defenceless position. Situations at workplaces vary. It is not easy to determine whether it is a case of bullying at the workplace or some other conflict.
Forms of bullying may include e.g. continuous and repeated
- assigning of excessive amount of work
- repeated unreasonable scheduling for completing work
- assigning too modest work considering the employee’s resources
- isolation from the work community, social discrimination
- reproaching, oppression, mocking, humiliating, insulting
- defaming and talking of unfounded matters
- criticising without a reason
- breaching the personal physical integrity
Drawing a line between bullying and other conflicts is often difficult. All problematic situations should nevertheless be cleared at the workplace. It should be kept in mind that personal differences in views and conflicts between the employees are not bullying at the workplace. The employer also has rights based on the direction right (=employer’s right to supervise and control work) which cannot be considered bullying at the workplace. An employee is obliged to follow the instructions and orders that the employer gives within its authority. The employer’s and employee’s obligations are prescribed in chapters 2 and 3 of the Employment Contracts Act. .
Such rights of the employer include e.g.
- orders and instructions given by the employer/supervisor which are included in the right to supervise (e.g. the right to order where, how and when the work is to be done)
- unilateral changing of the employment relationship within certain limits, such as work tasks, place of work, and working hours
A provision was added to the Occupational Safety and Health Act that entered into force on 1 January 2003 which obligates the employer to see to it that no harassment or other inappropriate treatment of an employee occurs at work and causes hazards or risks to the employee’s health. All efforts shall be taken to prevent inappropriate treatment, and if such treatment occurs, it shall be acted on without delay.
Section 28: If harassment or other inappropriate treatment of an employee occurs at work and causes hazards or risks to the employee’s health, the employer, after becoming aware of the matter, shall by available means take measures for remedying this situation.
Section 18: Employees shall avoid such harassment and other inappropriate treatment of other employees at the workplace which causes hazards or risks to their safety or health.
The problems related to bullying at the workplace can only be solved inside the work community. The handling and treatment of bullying cases are the employer’s obligations pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Personnel is represented in such cases by the occupational safety and health delegate.
If you have become an object of bullying, take the subject up with the bully. Tell about the situations that you feel are bullying and demand the bully to stop the inappropriate behaviour. If your prohibition does not work, contact your supervisor. If the bully is a supervisor, you need to contact his/her supervisor. Write down all the situations in which you feel you have been bullied. The notes will be needed in case of later investigation of the bullying. If you need support in the situation, contact the occupational safety and health delegate at your workplace or occupational health care.
The duties of occupational safety and health authorities include controlling the compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. If your initiatives to your employer for stopping the bullying do not work, contact your local occupational safety and health authorities. On the website of Occupational Safety and Health Administration you will also find further information on occupational safety and health and on controlling the compliance with the regulations and provisions concerning it.
- Equal treatment
The Employment Contracts Act obliges the employer to treat the employees equally. The employer must not, without an acceptable reason, put the employees in a different position due to age, state of health, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, conviction, family relationships, trade union activity, political activity or other comparable cause. The premise of equal treatment is that the employees shall be treated equally in similar situations. Such situations may include, for example, issuing a warning or referral to treatment. Discrimination is prohibited on the same grounds in the Non-discrimination Act.
Employees can be put in a position different from each other, if there is an objectively acceptable reason for it. For example, the use of an incentive pay system is acceptable.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men secures equal treatment of genders in working life. According to the law, the employer must promote equality between women and men within working life in a purposeful and systematic manner. Direct and indirect discrimination based on gender is prohibited. The employer can be convicted to pay compensation to the discriminated employee. The law shall not be applied to the practice of religion or to private life.
According to the law, the employer shall act in such a way that job vacancies attract applications from both women and men, and promote the equitable recruitment of women and men in the various jobs and create for them equal opportunities for career advancement. The employer shall promote equality between women and men in the terms of employment, especially in pay; and develop working conditions to ensure they are suitable for both women and men. The employer shall also act to prevent the occurrence of discrimination based on gender.
If an employer has a personnel of at least 30 employees working in employment relationships, the employer shall every year prepare a gender equality plan.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men also prohibits indirect discrimination. An example of indirect discrimination is less favourable terms of employment of part-time or fixed-term employees, if the majority of those employees are of the same gender.
The law also determines sexual harassment and gender-based harassment to be discrimination. A supervisor can also be guilty of discrimination by giving an instruction to engage in discrimination.