Employers owe varied duties to their employees – statutory duties via employment legislation and health and safety as well as through common law duties developed by the Courts over the years.
At the core of the duties owed at common law is that an employer owes a duty to his employees to take reasonable care for their safety in all the circumstances of their employment – through four main duties recognised by the Courts:
(1) The provision of competent staff;
(2) The provision of a safe place of work;
(3) The provision of suitable work equipment; and,
(4) The provision of a safe system of work.
Another way an employer can be liable for bullying is through the well settled principle of law in this jurisdiction that the employer is vicariously liable for the actions of its staff in the course of their employment.
Thus a claim for bullying can mean arguing that an employer has failed in one (or more) of these duties to an employee. For example an employee might argue that an employer failed to provide competent staff along with the duty to provide a safe system of work in seeking damages for emotional and psychological harm suffered as a result of bullying or stress from work. Where such injuries are caused by the actions of a co-worker, then the employer will be said to have failed to provide competent co-workers as well as failing to provide a safe system and place of work.