Guidelines for prevention and management of bullying and harassment


Approved by the University Director on 15 April 2020.

1. Introduction

Employees are entitled to a thoroughly sound working environment and shall not be subjected to bullying, harassment or other improper conduct.

The University of Bergen as an employer has a duty to ensure that this right is complied with, and shall through active work ensure a good, safe psychosocial working environment.

These guidelines shall help prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, provide information on the employees’ right and duty to report and ensure proper handling of such cases.

2. Definitions

Bullying, harassment and improper conduct

  • Bullying is defined as actions, omissions or utterances that are repetitive, systematic, and persistent, and that have the purpose or effect of being offensive, intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating, and where the victim has difficulty in defending her/himself because the course of events is characterised by an actual or perceived power imbalance between the parties (cf. Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011; Olweus, 1993).
  • Harassment and improper conduct are defined as acts, omissions or utterances that have the purpose or effect of being offensive, intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating (Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, Section 13).

Harassment and improper conduct can have various forms. These can be single actions as well as repeated and systematic actions, and these can be both direct (e.g. aggressive or sexually charged behavior) and indirect (e.g. social exclusion). In some cases the negative treatment of employees may take the form of sexual harassment or bullying, without limiting the term of harassment and improper conduct to this.

Sexual harassment means any form of unwanted sexual attention that is intended to be effect of being offensive, intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or troublesome.

Discrimination is always considered improper conduct (cf. Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act). The same applies to retaliation against people who have reported improper conduct in accordance with the guidelines.

In the following, all references to bullying and harassment also include improper conduct.

3. Prevention

Preventing bullying and harassment is part of the systematic HSE work. It involves mapping the work environment, assessing the risk of bullying and harassment, drawing up plans and prioritizing measures, and implementing measures to reduce the risk factors.

Managers are responsible for ensuring the mapping and risk assessment of the working environment to prevent and seek to preclude employees from being subjected to bullying and harassment and shall take necessary measures to reduce the risk of bullying and harassment occurring.

Employees shall participate in the design of measures to prevent bullying and harassment and shall adhere to routines and measures against bullying and harassment.

Managers, safety delegates and union representatives must have expertise in the prevention and management of bullying and harassment.

Managers are expected to indicate clear boundaries for what constitutes unacceptable behaviour in daily activities, keep discussions objective, and to not accept personal attacks or ridicule, as well as avoid negative mention of employees and comply with the duty of confidentiality in respect of personal matters.

4. Notification

Any employee who feels that they are being subjected to bullying, harassment or other improper conduct by one or more work colleagues should always notify their immediate manager, possibly to the safety delegate. If the employee’s immediate leader is part of the case, the matter should be reported to a higher level manager.

Any employee who becomes aware of bullying, harassment or other improper conduct in the workplace must notify the manager, possible the safety delegate, as soon as possible. If the manager is part of the case, the matter should be reported to a higher level manager.

Employees can contact the occupational health service (BHT) for advice and assistance.

Employees can also contact their union representatives for assistance with the case.

When a safety delegate becomes aware of the occurrence of bullying, harassment or other improper conduct in the workplace, the safety delegate must immediately notify the manager or a higher level manager, if the manager is part of the case.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace shall be reported in accordance with the Guidelines for whistleblowing at the University of Bergen

5. Handling

When a manager is notified of a case of bullying, harassment or other improper conduct, or becomes aware of such her/himself, she or he must immediately seek to obtain an overview of the case and ensure that the case is handled properly. In this context, reference is made to the procedure for notification in UiB’s Guidelines for whistleblowing at the University of Bergen.

The manager must check that she/he is not involved in the case her/himself, as far as this is possible. If she/he is involved, the case must be dealt with at a higher managerial level.

Managers can seek advice and assistance on how to handle the case from the Division of HR. The occupational health service can also provide advice in these kinds of cases.

Managers have a responsibility to safeguard all the parties involved in these kinds of cases and refer employees to the occupational health service if necessary. Retaliation against people who have notified in accordance with the guidelines (whistleblowers) is forbidden.

Investigation

It will often be natural to initiate the investigation by conducting individual interviews with the person or people who have reported improper conduct, the parties involved, and others who may be able to provide information about the case.

Some advice regarding the interviews:

  • Inform the involved parties about their right to include an employee representative / adviser in the invitation to a meeting. At the same time, inform who the employer has requested to attend the meeting
  • Start by clarifying the purpose and premises of the interview.
  • Be prepared for the fact that these kinds of interviews may be emotionally distressing for the employee.
  • Do not be biased. Be concerned with listening to your employees. Avoid being influenced by the first information you receive. Different versions can be equally correct/wrong
  • Make a memo from the interviews. To avoid any misunderstandings, the employee should be allowed to review and, if necessary, revise the memos from their interview
  • Trust and confidentiality are particularly important in such contexts. When disseminating information received, one should avoid referring to who has said what, but focus on what was communicated

After the interviews, a summary of the case must be prepared and it must be considered whether further information retrieval is needed in order to investigate the case.

Conclusion

Once the case has been enlightened as well as possible, a conclusion must be reached as to whether someone is being – or has been – subjected to bullying, harassment or other improper conduct. The involved parties must be informed about the conclusion.

6. Follow-up

If the conclusion is that one or more employees are being subjected to bullying, harassment or other improper conduct by other employees, the matter must be rectified such that the employee(s) is ensured a thoroughly sound working environment.

At such a conclusion the manager, together with the Division of HR, must assess whether there are grounds for sanctions against one or more of the parties involved in the case.

In addition, steps must be taken to prevent the improper conduct from happening again.

Failure to deal with these kinds of cases properly can be notified as censurable conditions in accordance with the Guidelines for whistleblowing at the University of Bergen.

In order to prevent new cases of bullying and harassment, continuous preventive work is important as part of the systematic HSE work.

7. Relevant guidelines

8. References

Working Environment Act

Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act

Regulations relating to Systematic Health, Environmental and Safety Activities in Enterprises (Internal Control Regulations)

Public Administration Act

Guidelines for whistleblowing at the University of Bergen.

Guidelines for conflict management

Guidelines for conflicts, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment that involves students (NO).

Guidelines for handling violence and threats

Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority – Bullying (NO)

Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority – Harassment (NO)

Sikresiden – Sexual Harassment

Workplace bullying (Idebanken.org) (NO)

Show revision history
Date Comment Entered by
Friday 19 June 2020 11:14:47 am Oversettelse Kathrine Brosvik Thorsen
Friday 19 June 2020 11:13:00 am Oversettelse Kathrine Brosvik Thorsen
Friday 19 June 2020 10:56:09 am Oversettelse Kathrine Brosvik Thorsen
Tuesday 28 April 2020 12:03:22 pm Ny retningslinje Kathrine Brosvik Thorsen
Tuesday 28 April 2020 11:59:34 am Ny retningslinje Kathrine Brosvik Thorsen
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