A total of 54 bullying/harassment complaints submitted to the HSE national investigations unit (NIU) across 2021 and 2022 progressed to formal investigation, according to new figures provided to the Medical Independent (MI).
The figures, which were obtained through Freedom of Information (FoI) law, show that 27 cases were submitted to the NIU and progressed by the unit in each of the two years.
In 2021, 22 of the cases related to bullying and five to harassment.
In 2022, 25 of the cases related to bullying and two to harassment.
According to the FoI response, seven of the cases received by the unit in 2021 and progressed to investigation have concluded. Of the seven cases, five related to bullying and two to harassment. The cases received in 2022 that progressed to investigation are ongoing.
The FoI submitted by MI requested the number of bullying/harassment complaints made by staff members of the HSE to management across the two-year period that resulted in a formal investigation.
The response pointed out complaints in relation to bullying and harassment are initially filed locally.
The management of these complaints is the responsibility of line managers and the details are not collated centrally by the HSE, the FoI response outlined.
A complaint which is escalated to an investigation is managed by an investigation commissioner who is at local service area level and supported by the NIU when requested.
“We are aware some complaints are not referred to the national investigations unit and remain at local level,” according to the response.
Last August, the HSE National Director of Human Resources Ms Anne Marie Hoey instructed senior managers to ensure a sufficient number of staff are designated responsibility for functions in the revised bullying and harassment policy.
In 2022, the HSE updated its Dignity at Work Policy for the public health service. The policy contains further guidance on what constitutes bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment. It includes a new section on preventative measures designed to avoid incidents or complaints arising.
In a circular, Ms Hoey pointed out that as the revised policy takes effect, a range of actions were essential to support effective implementation.
“Senior managers should ensure that there are sufficient numbers of suitable staff to discharge these keys roles in the policy,” according to the circular.
Senior managers were informed of the need to identify and communicate a system to enable monitoring of the policy and incidents of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment.