The recently published “Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work” gives us an opportunity to review principles of bullying at work.

The repealed code is effective since 23 December 2020. This code replaces the HSA’s ‘Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work’ and the LRC (now WRC) ‘Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace’. The new Code introduces new procedures for the management of workplace bullying.

This Code of Practice, under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, is aimed at preventing and dealing with bullying where is happens in Irish workplaces. It is code for both employers and employees.

Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour that undermines your right to dignity at work. It usually takes place over a period of time. It can be done by one or more persons and it is aimed at an individual or a group to make them feel inferior to other people. Bullying can be direct or indirect, and can include verbal, physical or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying which is carried out online, through mobile phones, social networking sites, email or texts.

The Code reminds employers that behaviour can be either bullying or harassment, but not both, as they are two legally distinct concepts. The Code does not address harassment/sexual harassment at all, nor does it aim to address issues of physical assault.

The Code also requires workplace bullying to show an ongoing series of seriously negative targeted behaviours intended to undermine a person’s esteem and standing, in a harmful and sustained way. A pattern and trend of wrongdoing is required, rather than a one-off incident/behaviour, and for the first time, we see reference to cyber and digital bullying.

The 2020 Code gives practical guidance to employers about processes and procedures when a complaint of bullying is made. A definition of bullying and a non-exhaustive list of what could be considered bullying in the workplace is provided.

The Code also identifies behaviours that will not qualify as bullying, such as offers of constructive feedback and guidance about work-related behaviour to employees, ordinary performance management, and reasonable corrective action. Disrespectful behaviour does not meet the threshold to qualify as workplace bullying.

The new Code provides employers and employees with guidance for preventing and dealing with workplace bullying. It also provides practical guidance for employers on the creation of an Anti-Bullying Policy. This will be beneficial to employees and employers alike, as a comprehensive Anti-Bullying Policy can be a highly effective tool in the prevention and effective resolution of bullying.

Employers should familiarise themselves with the 2020 Code and update their Anti- Bullying policies.

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website, or email