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Employer support during bullying investigations

By Kiren Narayanan - 26 Sep 2018

How far does an employer need to go to support an employee with mental health issues during a disciplinary process? Hilford v The Order of St John is an example of how a personal grievance can succeed if the employer does not provide enough support to an employee who is suffering from mental health issues.

Following several years of complaints from Mr Hilford, an investigation was carried out by Mr Hilford's employer, St John. The investigation results were that there was no bullying.  However, the Authority held that carrying out an investigation is not enough. It must also follow a fair and reasonable process:

  • The investigation must be impartial, comprehensive and fair. Here, one of the perpetrators of the bullying carried out the investigation.
  • All of the parties must be heard. Mr Hilford was not interviewed.  Only his colleagues were.
  • The complainant must be given an opportunity to provide comment on the investigation.  Information was gathered by interviewing other employees but was not provided to Mr Hilford for his comment.

The Authority found that the employer was in severe breach of its health and safety obligations as an employer and awarded Mr Hilford $35,000 in hurt and humiliation.

This decision is currently under appeal. The extent of an employer's obligations in terms of health and safety may be clarified in that appeal, so watch this space.

Contact

Kiren Narayan

Andrew Steele

 

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