Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Department of Defence
Bullying in the Workplace
207. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he is taking to deal with issues in the Defence Forces concerning allegations of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment of personnel; his plans to implement safeguards; his plans to establish investigations or inquiries into the allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30192/20]
All members of the Defence Forces have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of sexual harassment, harassment or bullying. These unacceptable forms of behaviour are not tolerated in the Defence Forces.
I am advised that there are robust measures and systems currently in place within the Defence Forces to address allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. Defence Force Regulation A7, in the first instance, provides the regulatory framework for dealing with such matters for serving members of the Defence Forces in both a formal and informal way through a trained Designated Contact Person (DCP) network.
Within this framework, Administrative Instruction A7, Chapter 1 sets out the Defence Forces policy and procedures regarding interpersonal relationships in the Defence Forces including sexual harassment, harassment and bullying, in order to deter unacceptable behaviour and promote a service environment based on mutual respect, equality and professionalism.
Underpinned by a strong set of organisational values, Defence Forces personnel are additionally required to ensure that their own actions and behaviour do not cause offence to others or contribute in any way to a discriminatory working environment. Personnel are expected to support the policy on sexual harassment, harassment or bullying by bringing instances where such behaviour has occurred to attention at an early stage and co-operating with an investigation whether as a complainant, the person complained of, or as a witness.
Central to the concept of an effective service environment is the commitment of the leadership and members of the Defence Forces to maintain an atmosphere in which the dignity of each individual is respected. In adopting a ‘Dignity Charter’, the Defence Forces subscribes to this commitment by seeking to create and maintain a positive working environment that recognises and protects the right of each individual to dignity at work, and to ensure that all individuals are aware of and committed to the principles set out in this Charter and the Military Authorities have advised that the Commanders of each unit/ staff section are required to ensure that copies of this Charter are widely displayed in their own areas of command responsibility.
The need to care for the well-being of its members is a priority for the Defence Forces and in this regard, the Personnel Support Service (PSS) is in place for the use of members and their immediate family, The Brigade PSS Office and Occupational Social Worker network in each Brigade/Formation supports Defence Forces personnel and their families in times of crisis and general difficulty. Services include the provision of information and advice on areas including stress management, counselling and referral options.
Through its various policies and strategies, I am satisfied therefore that the Defence Forces are taking all reasonable steps to provide an inclusive workplace environment, free from harassment, intimidation and bullying, and where dignity and respect are afforded to all.
Unacceptable forms of behaviour are not tolerated in the Defence Forces and where there are allegations of offences having been committed, investigations will be initiated by the appropriate authorities.