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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Comment—Bullying: document everything

A year has gone by since “Bullying: A Victim’s View” was published in our Jan/Feb 2016 edition. Here is the author’s update, with a key lesson for everyone.

Settling into a new role in health and safety at the start of last year gave me such a huge lift. I actually looked forward to getting up and going to work – a bit like getting up and being able to smell the roses.

It took a while to adjust my mindset to a completely different work environment: a workplace without provocations, without conversations which would be misconstrued and reported out of context, without that awful feeling of being under continual surveillance and wondering how long it would be before the call went out to attend a meeting with the team leader or HR, where false accusations would be made.

Over a couple of months my partner could see a dramatic change taking place. I came home after a day’s work with a smile on my face and a new outlook on life – as opposed to coming home stressed, tired, and miserable.

The decision also had to be made about lodging a Personal Grievance as there was a timeframe of three months after finishing my employment to be adhered to. If made within this time frame the support from the PSA remains in place until there has been a satisfactory resolution. The matter had been discussed prior to my departure from the DHB. After more discussions with the PSA we agreed that there was enough evidence (two years’ worth of documentation) to proceed with the PG. The claim was duly lodged and the response from the DHB was to agree in the first instance to a meeting taking place. The only paperwork that remained for me to provide the PSA with was a victim impact statement supported by a statement from my partner. These statements were then also sent to the DHB in support of the PG.

The months went by with not a lot happening due to the unavailability of key staff members from the DHB and PSA. I just wanted an outcome and closure before the end of the year – a year of uncertainty as to which way a decision would go was always at the back of my mind and I did not want to start a new year under a cloud.

Finally a date for the meeting was set down. Bearing in mind the DHB had received all the documentation to support the PG the meeting duration was not more than an hour. More notes were taken by the DHB representative, discussion re various perpetrators of the bullying, and questions asked as to why nothing was done when the bullying had been reported time and time again to the people who could have done something about it. As you can imagine there were no direct answers. The meeting was closed with a “be in touch soon” re a decision.

This PG claim was successful and the decision was made before the end of the year. Why was it successful? Because of the documenting that had been done over a period of more than two years: dates, times, names of personnel concerned, copies of complaints made, times of meetings with HR and team leaders.

I always took a support person to these meetings. I learnt early on, at the start of the process of recording evidence, never to go to a meeting without a support person. They are your ears and when under duress, pertinent facts are just too hard to recall accurately.

It was also prudent to be a member of the PSA. The membership fee is well worth every dollar and even although I was no longer in the employ of the DHB, the PSA continued to work on my behalf. It was a strong ally to have and you just never know when you are going to need them.

No worker should have to experience bullying of the nature that went on in my former workplace and it should never have been allowed to escalate to the level it did, leaving me no choice but to address it by lodging a Personal Grievance claim.

But I could only have done this if I had the evidence to support a PG, highlighting the importance of accurately recording events at the time they take place: dates, times, personnel, subject matter etc.

Plus, of course, strength, courage and determination.

The author wishes to remain anonymous.

Thomson Reuters

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