How to write the perfect dignity at work policy (free template included)

Emily Rodgers, Content Writer · 19 Mar

Demonstrating dignity at work can seem like a strange notion to have to remind members of staff to employ. Showing kindness and respect were taught to us from a young age and are the fundamental rules of being an upstanding person, aren't they?

Employees are your greatest asset but they can also be your biggest concern. Company culture is made or unraveled by those who work there. So if you fail to protect their rights at work, it can often spell disaster for your business.

Dignity is carried within each of us and everyone has dignity at work to begin with. Only until some form of indignity occurs does the implications take effect. This is because it relates to the quality of interaction. If the interactions you’re giving or receiving at work are rude and disrespectful, then the quality is shot.

What are the principles of dignity at work?

To define dignity at work we must first define dignity. This can be summed up as ‘a personal sense of worth, value, respect, or esteem that is derived from one’s humanity and individual social position; as well as being treated respectfully by others.’ Therefore, dignity at work combines this feeling with the correct level of ‘diversity and equity, health and safety, merit, equal opportunity or anti-discrimination procedures.’

Dignity at work is the principle of maintaining a healthy, safe and enjoyable place to go about your employment. It can only be achieved once each of these points is met:

  • The office is free from bullying, harassment and victimisation
  • All staff are considerate of each other and treat each other with respect
  • Unlawful discrimination in any form is never experienced
  • All employees skills and abilities are valued and championed

dignity at work

Is dignity at work important?

As mentioned, many employers don’t take the idea of dignity at work seriously because it’s pre-empted that everyone already knows how to behave, but many also don’t see the potential that having a great dignity at work policy can bring to a business.

We spend over 90,000 hours of our lives at work. It is one of the main places we can achieve fulfilment of our talents and potential, the very things that drive us as humans.

We have a need to make important contributions and developing this results in higher self-respect. Boosting self-worth, in turn, boosts dignity. This means that personal growth within a workforce directly affects dignity at work.

Dignity can also come as feeling part of a whole that is working towards a greater goal together. And what’s a better example of this than an organisation?

The link between communication and dignity at work

Not only is there a link between the level of communication and dignity at work, but it’s an extremely important one.

The quality of interactions, whether positive or negative, will directly affect whether your workplace has a high or low level of dignity.

Indignity often stems from either lack of communication or some form of initial communication that then spirals into more harmful interactions.

Improving the quality of the communication process in the workplace will provide greater levels of respect and therefore dignity as a knock-on effect.

dignity at work upset woman in suit

The most common types of indignity at work

The reason we’ve all either been part of or witnessed dignity at work is that there are hundreds of ways indignity can be at play. Each act falls under discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

The Equality Act of 2010 defines the three notions as follows:

Harassment is any unwanted behaviour that is made for the purpose of violating a person’s dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Harassment covers certain types of discrimination, bullying and victimisation. It includes insults, inappropriate jokes, unnecessary contact, threatening behaviour, ostracism and gossip.

Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they possess a certain characteristic, whereas indirect discrimination occurs when a person is disadvantaged by unjustified criteria that are directed at people with certain characteristics.

The characteristics that a person can be discriminated for is age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, race, religion, marriage and maternity.

Victimisation happens when an employee has made or supported a complaint and has been treated badly because of it.

Victimisation is often targeted behaviour. It can include such things as the exclusion of one particular person from work-related tasks or making an environment oppressive or penalising someone, all because they have made a complaint.

dignity at work stressed man in suit

Examples of indignity at work

As mentioned, there are a myriad of ways harassment, discrimination and victimisation can occur in a workplace, but below are just a few ways each can appear in a specific office setting.

Overworking

Obviously overworking does tend to occur during busy periods, but if a person is continually being overworked with no time in lieu or recuperation, this is immoral and is considered to go against dignity at work.

Abuse of power

This often occurs because a manager is using intimidation and threats to humiliate the recipient, in full knowledge that the person being targeted cannot defend themselves without taking a career risk.

Micromanaging

Micromanaging can violate a person’s independence at work and can be seen as interference or a pre-emptive judgement of negative results from their team meaning they feel the need to take control and comment on the colleagues' supposed incompetence.

Does online behaviour count?

Absolutely. Most of our working lives occur online these days, which not only means that it can be more prevalent than face-to-face behaviour, but should be considered just as severe.

Online harassment can be harder to detect, however, it can occur across email, instant messaging services, social media and centralized platforms. Derogatory remarks, posting hateful content and using insults are all considered to breach dignity at work and should be monitored closely.

dignity at work two women working together

Who is responsible for dignity at work?

As dignity at work is for the benefit of the entire workforce, it should be in all of the staffs best interests to become responsible for it. To do this, staff should treat others with respect, step in when they see unacceptable behaviour and reporting it to a manager.

While this is the case, it falls on the managers to set the overarching standards and make sure they are kept, not only with their own behaviour, but the behaviour of others. Managers should also ensure that any concerns are dealt with appropriately and according to the dignity at work policy.

Who does dignity at work protect?

Again, dignity at work is for the benefit of every staff member. If everyone is working towards creating a healthy workplace, then it should protect everyone involved.

The main ways to promote dignity at work

There are three main ways to make everyone aware of dignity at work.

1.Lay the groundwork

From the get-go, all staff should know where they stand in up keeping dignity at work. Whether the company’s take on dignity at work is integrated as part of induction training or courteous behaviour is encouraged through consistent communication, staff should never be unsure of how they are expected to behave in your workplace.

2. Introduce training

Managers should be trained in the many different types of bullying and harassment as well as how to tackle each one. The procedures laid out in the training should be legally compliant with legal framework, such as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, the Health and Safety Authority’s Code of Practice on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying and the Equality Authority’s Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work.

3. Write a policy

Each place of work should have your own bespoke dignity at work policy. It is a vital progressive management tool. It should be catered to the type of staff you employ, the type of work and services you provide and whether customers or clients are involved. There are many benefits to producing a dignity at work policy. When indignity is identified, the procedures outlined in the policy can induce more effective action against it, challenging it and putting a stop to any sort of disgrace quickly. By enforcing a pleasant working environment, overall morale is raised, stress is lowered and retention is secured.

dignity at work women in an office

How to write a dignity at work statement

  • Think about the type of work environment you want to create and set out clear objections of how you expect your staff to get there
  • Cover all bases in terms of who is involved, whose responsibility it is to enforce and why it’s important
  • Set it out clearly. Go into as much detail as you can and explain each point and defining what is meant by each term
  • Look at governing bodies surrounding dignity at work, including Acts and reports, and incorporate their principles according to your ethos
  • Use our template

Dignity at work template

Policy

1. It should be in the employers best interests to create a dignified and respectful culture as part of the overall commitment to equality and a diverse workforce.
 
2. Each employer should draw up a dignity at work policy document in conjunction with staff. This policy should include a procedure on how to effectively deal with harassment in the workplace.
 
3. This policy should apply to all staff, including contractors, visitors and volunteers.
 
4. Employers should continue to make managers and staff aware of the policy and its sources of available support, through regular publication and promotion to ensure all are aware of the expectations from the policy and consequences if these are not met.
 
5. Appropriate training should be undertaken to encourage the promotion of the policy.
 
Creating a culture to encourage dignity at work
 
6. Employers and staff should agree how the main causes of harassment or bullying at work will be identified and the actions that will be taken to remove these sources.
 
7. It is the employers’ duty to prevent harassment across all avenues. It is the managers’ responsibility to continually remind staff of the standard of acceptable behaviour that is expected of staff. Each should ensure they act with fairness and equity so their own behaviour is not taken as harassment. It is the responsibility of each member of staff to carry his or her own behaviour properly.

Dealing with complaints

8. If an allegation of harassment or bullying occurs, or if the dignity at work policy has been strayed from, employers, senior staff and managers should have a procedure in place to deal with these cases.

Definitions

9. Harassment is defined as “any conduct based on age, gender, pregnancy or maternity, marriage or civil partnership, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, disability, HIV status, race, religion, or belief political, trades union or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a minority, domestic circumstances, property, birth or other status which is unreciprocated or unwanted and which affects the dignity of men and women at work.”
 
10. Bullying is defined as “the unwanted behaviour, one to another, which is based upon the unwarranted use of authority or power.”
 
11. In all cases, it will be for the recipient to define what is inappropriate behaviour.
 
12. “At work” includes any place where the occasion can be identified with either the requirements of the employer, or with social events linked to the same employment.

Process

13. Any procedure regarding complaints should state that the complainant can report the complaint informally with a direct request for the behaviour to stop.
 
14. All complaints should be taken seriously and investigated promptly and thoroughly. 15. For complaints against other staff members:
  • Complainants should have access to trained advisers to help them to deal with the process of complaint;
  • There will be specific provision within the procedure to deal with cases where the alleged harasser manages, or is managed by, the complainant;
  • An alleged harasser will have the right to be informed in writing of the complaint made against them.
16. An investigation should be opened when a formal complaint is made, with the investigator(s) operating outside their normal area of responsibility.
 
17. Investigators should be trained in the skills of objective investigation, interviewing and report writing.
 
18. A factual report should be created as soon as possible after the initial complaint by the investigator(s) and presented to the relevant reporting manager.
 
19. It is the responsibility of the reporting manager to produce an outcome to a valid complaint which offers a remedy which may include mediation.
 
20. The reporting manager will decide whether the disciplinary procedure needs to be invoked for the alleged harasser.
 
21. Confidentiality should be maintained, as far as is compatible with thorough investigation and the effective handling of each case. Steps should also be taken to ensure that complainants and witnesses remain free from victimisation.
 
22. When it transpires that a complaint was not to be made in good faith, the reporting manager should decide whether the disciplinary procedure be invoked for the complainant.

Appeals

23. The procedure should allow for either party to appeal.
 
24. The complainant may appeal if it is felt that the process of investigation and subsequent application, or not, of the disciplinary procedure has been unfairly or poorly carried out or agreed. There should be no appeal allowed to the complainant against the perceived severity or leniency of the disciplinary action taken.
 
25. The alleged harasser may appeal if it is felt that the process of investigation or subsequent application of the disciplinary procedure has been unfairly or poorly carried out or agreed. The alleged harasser should also be allowed to appeal against the perceived severity of the disciplinary action taken.

Monitoring and review

26. Provision should be made for managers to monitor complaints and their outcomes together with other members of staff.
 
27. Monitoring arrangements should be capable of seeking out the causes of harassment and bullying so as to remove them from the organisation.
 
dignity at work coworkers laughing

Let’s keep it dignified

Now you should understand the importance of dignity in the workplace, what role it plays and how to implement it with an effective policy. With this knowledge, workplaces everywhere will be dignified environments that promote upstanding behaviour by all.

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