Employee harassment is one of the most common complaints heard in any part of the world. While some countries like United Kingdom ensure any kind of harassment or bullying against employees is prohibited under Law, the same can’t be said about the United Arab Emirates.
Protection from harassment in the U.K
In the United Kingdom, under S26 of the Equality Act 2010, an employer can be vicariously liable for harassment and bullying caused by their employees. This liability extends to harassment by one employee against another as well as third parties harassing any person in the work place.
In order for the protection from harassment under this act to apply, the following conditions needs to be established:
- The conduct must be unwanted
- It needs to be related to a relevant protected characteristic. By this, it means that the specific characteristics need to be protected under the Law. By virtue of U.K. employment law; the specific conduct needs to be related to a person’s race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age and/or religion.
- The purpose or effect is that of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.
For those who do not fall under this test, a further protection against bullying is granted under UK law. This applies to:
Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.
The importance of the law is that firstly, a duty is imposed on the employer to prevent the aforementioned conduct to occur in the first place.Secondly, employees to whom the behavior is not directed may also make a complaint against behavior they find offensive as well. As such you can see that that there are strict rules in the UK to prevent the employee harassment in any form.
Employee Harassment in U.A.E law
In theory as well as in practice, U.A.E. law does not provide any form of protection from harassment or bullying. The only form of little protection available could be used for these purposes is under Article, 359 U.A.E Penal Code, which provides that “Whoever attempts to disgrace a female by words or by deeds in a public street or frequented place, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand Dirhams…”
The failings are more than apparent. Firstly, this law only applies to women and does not extend to the other sex. Secondly, the law does not seem to recognize that harassment and its like may take other forms. Lastly, even though it is arguably extended to cover the workplace, this has been drafted with ambiguity and as such I think the best solution would be to introduce a special provision where this is expressly included in the employment rights in UAE.
I think it is inevitable that employers should be held responsible for harassing and bullying behavior. The duty imposed on the employer should of course be limited to acts of harassment or bullying which has taken place during the course of employment. Further, his or her liability should only extend to taking all reasonable precautions and/or actions which could have been reasonably been prevented in all the circumstances.
This could take the form of introducing a policy which clearly stipulates the definition of harassment which is made clear to all employees. Further, it should be clearly stipulated what consequences will follow acts of harassment e.g. by making obvious that the company takes this very seriously, and will consider such acts as Gross Misconduct. Making it clear about the standard of behavior that is expected can also make it more effortless in relation to each person’s awareness of their individual responsibility towards others.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for a provision such as this one. Regardless of the effect this type of conduct has, it is in theory as well as in practice a type of behavior that is immature beyond all explanations. The underlying principle that needs to be borne in mind at all times when thinking of this subject matter is; that working in a harassment and bully free environment should under the law be a right, not a privilege.