The Dignity at Work Bill 2001 has been introduced in the House of Lords.
It provides that all employees "shall have a right to dignity at work", and that a dignity clause shall be implied into all contracts of employment.
It prohibits harassment, bullying and any conduct which causes the employee "to be alarmed or distressed", including:
• behaviour on more than one occasion which is offensive or abusive;
• unjustified criticism on more than one occasion;
• punishment imposed without reasonable justification; or,
• changes in the duties or responsibilities of the employee to the employee's detriment without reasonable justification.
The right applies to contract workers as well as employees.
The Bill provides for complaints to be brought before an employment tribunal. The tribunal can make a declaration, a recommendation or order compensation (including damages for injury to feelings).
There is a statutory defence that can be made out if:
• the employer has in force a 'Dignity at Work Policy' and has taken reasonable steps to enforce it;
• the acts complained of are repudiated by the person in charge of the policy within 3 days of complaint ('repudiated' is not defined, but it is stated to include a repudiation in writing to the employee and to any other employees who witnessed or knew of the act complained of); and,
• the employer takes all steps reasonably necessary to remedy any loss suffered by the complainant.
The Bill will also amend section 95(1)(c) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (the section defining constructive dismissal), to provide that breach of the implied dignity clause can amount to constructive dismissal.
The Bill can be seen here. I am offering odds on the Bill failing to be enacted due to lack of parliamentary time!
Tuesday, 4 December 2001
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