Do You Have a Workplace Anti-Bullying Policy?

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Workplace bullying is a rather surprisingly widespread problem. According to a recent survey by VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development consulting company, 96 percent of American workers have experienced workplace bullying. Among the survey respondents, 89 percent reported bullying incidents that had persisted for more than one year. Fifty-four percent had dealt with the negative actions of a coworker or manager for more than five years.

The most common types of bullying reported in the survey were sabotage of the work or reputation of others (cited by 62 percent of respondents who had experienced bullying) and browbeating, verbal intimidation and threats (52 percent). Only 4 percent of the bullied respondents had dealt with physical intimidation or threats.

Other studies have revealed similar findings. In one, more than 25 percent of the surveyed workers reported that they had experienced abusive conduct at work. In another, 64 percent stated that workplace bullying had physically hurt them, driven them to tears or had a negative effect on their work performance. It’s easy to see why; bullying certainly creates an uncomfortable work environment. This leads to lower productivity and higher turnover—and both cost employers money.

While the development of a workplace anti-bullying policy is necessary, the process can be difficult due to both practical and legal considerations. For example, how do you distinguish malicious bullying from friendly banter or teasing? The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has further complicated the matter with challenges to employer workplace bullying policies, generally because they find the language within them to be too broad.

If you’ve yet to address bullying in your workplace, you may choose to expand your existing harassment policy to include it or create a standalone policy. Whichever course you decide to take, make sure you do the following:

  • State that your company is committed to promoting a respectful, bully-free workplace.
  • Define workplace bullying as clearly as you can and include a statement that shows you are aware of the levels of bullying that may take place (between managers and workers, between coworkers, between clients and workers, etc.).
  • Include a detailed list of the types of behavior you will not tolerate under the new policy.
  • Describe the procedure for reporting bullying incidents. Because employees may be fearful of bully retaliation, consider an anonymous reporting system.
  • Outline the consequences of violating the anti-bullying policy. This includes how you intend to document the disciplinary process and the types of discipline you will enforce.
  • Communicate the policy to employees at all levels within your organization.
  • Take all complaints of bullying seriously, regardless of whether a legally protected class of worker is involved or not.

The Society for Human Resource Management has a sample policy online that includes a relatively broad definition of workplace bullying coupled with a list of examples of bullying actions. The American Bar Association offers a similar template online as well—and this one includes instructions for reporting workplace-bullying incidents to management.

Enforcing a workplace anti-bullying policy shows you value and respect your employees and will protect their right to a pleasant workplace. For further assistance with its development, contact your benefits advisor and/or legal counsel.

Benefits to Engage Older Workers

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If you think your senior employees are counting down the days until they can enjoy a life of pure leisure, you may be wrong. A new survey conducted by Merrill Lynch, a financial management and advisory company, found that 72 percent of pre-retirees over the age of 50 plan to work in retirement. Add to these the 47 percent of current retirees who have worked or are planning to work during their golden years and it’s likely that employers who want to take full advantage of this demographic will increasingly need to find ways to engage older workers.

Offer the right benefits and it will be easier to retain senior staff members after they reach retirement age as well as attract senior jobseekers to available positions. Benefits popular with Baby Boomers include:

  • Flexible Hours – Flexible schedules are popular with seniors. In fact, in a 2013 survey by AARP, 72 percent cited schedule flexibility as absolutely necessary in their ideal job. If you’re employing seniors who want to work full time, offer them their choice of standard shifts, or consider 10- or 12-hour shifts that reduce the number of days they need to report to the office.
  • Part-Time Opportunities – Not all retirees want to work full time. If your business includes part-time positions, senior jobseekers may be eager to fill them. You can also consider reduced schedules that won’t interfere with their ability to collect Social Security, or job-sharing programs that allow two or more seniors to divide up the hours required for one position.
  • Mentoring Opportunities – Your older workers are valuable repositories of knowledge. Set up a mentorship program that will enable them to share their expertise with your younger and newer employees. This will show them you appreciate their proficiencies and they are still a valued member of the team.
  • Health Insurance Coverage for Part-Time Workers – Medicare doesn’t cover every health expense, and healthcare can take a big bite out of seniors’ retirement savings. Offering health insurance coverage for your part-time workers will make your company more attractive to older applicants.
  • Workplace Wellness Program – Studies have shown that exercise and diet can affect the aging process. Provide your workers with a wellness program that includes perks such as nutrition counseling, healthy cafeteria options, gym memberships or onsite workout equipment and you’ll help them keep their bodies and minds healthier for longer.
  • Phased Retirement Program – Unlike a tradition retirement program, a phased program is set up to enable older employees to work part-time while drawing a portion of their retirement income, providing them with the equivalent of a full salary and benefits.
  • Financial Planning Assistance – Older employees often appreciate the opportunity to obtain the advice of financial planning experts, whether they intend to continue working after retirement because they haven’t saved enough yet or just don’t want to become bored.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance – Designed to help older individuals pay for long-term care and support in their home, an assisted living community or nursing home, long-term care insurance is often a popular supplemental product with seniors.
  • Legal Assistance – Seniors who have not yet created a will or estate plan will appreciate the opportunity to obtain free or low-cost advice and assistance from a legal professional.
  • Concierge Service – From picking up groceries to wrapping holiday presents, some employers are providing their older workers with the assistance of a concierge service to help with personal errands.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 22.2 percent of the U.S. workforce was age 55 or older as of July 2014. By 2020, they expect 29.3 million of the nation’s workers will be between the ages of 55 and 65. It’s easy to see why it’s in your best interest to engage this demographic of employee. If you’d like additional advice on adjusting your benefits package accordingly, contact your benefits advisor