9 September 2009,
EMPLOYERS are scrambling to protect themselves from redundancies through contrived or exaggerated workplace allegations.
The current climate of job uncertainty has contributed to a trend that may come as a surprise to employers – an increase in the number of bullying claims and in particular false claims, according to Harmers Workplace Lawyers.
Managing partner Joydeep Hor, has identified an increase in false bullying claims by workers made redundant with harassment claims now at their highest levels.
“When employees feel that their employment is threatened, many feel cornered and helpless and some even decide to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves,” says Hor.
“Given the often high-profile nature of bullying and harassment cases and the negative impact on a company’s reputation, employees can see the bargaining power a claim like this might bring and they hope the claim will mark them ‘off-limits’ for any future redundancies.
“Previous downturns would not have seen anywhere near the same number of claims of bullying and harassment. Reporting of workplace bullying has steadily increased over the past 10 years as employees are better educated about these issues and have better avenues to report cases. However, coupled with the current economic downturn and feelings of job insecurity, the claims have now reached new heights as employees seek to bolster and protect their position in the organisation.”
Hor says many of the false claims can be subtly made by employees wishing to shift focus or scrutiny to other staff or managers.
“Rather than making outright allegations of bullying, employees may simply alert a manager or employer to an incident or conduct which could be construed as bullying. That then puts the onus on their superior to escalate the issue, leaving the employee feeling less implicated,” he says.claim is false or otherwise.