Ministry must present clear examples of ‘power harassment’ in workplace

The Yomiuri ShimbunEfforts must be made to create an environment in which people are able to work at ease without suffering various types of so-called power harassment in the workplace, including bullying and abuse of power.

The Diet has passed a power harassment-related bill that will make it mandatory for companies to take preventive measures. The relevant law is scheduled to take effect in April 2020 for big businesses and in April 2022 for small and medium-size companies.

The law has defined power harassment for the first time as “acts committed by people who take advantage of their superior positions at workplaces, inflicting mental and physical pain on their subordinate employees beyond a proper degree.” The law obligates firms to provide employment regulations that stipulate such policies as setting up consultation sections and compiling preventative measures for power harassment.

In especially bad cases of power harassment, the names of the companies involved will be made public. The relevant law does not prescribe any punitive measures against violators, but it can be said that the law strongly calls for companies to work out measures against power harassment.

The damage from power harrassment is serious. The number of cases consulted on “bullying and abuse of power” at labor bureaus across the country and other offices exceeded 70,000 in fiscal 2017, making this the most common reason for consultation for the sixth straight year. There has been an increasing number of cases in which people with mental disorders caused by power harassment have been deemed to be entitled to workers’ compensation.

As for sexual harassment and so-called maternity harassment against women who are pregnant or have had babies, businesses are required to take preventive measures under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and other regulations. It is highly significant that measures against power harassment, which was hitherto left to voluntary efforts by companies, have been legally stipulated.

Assistance measures vital

Power harassment impairs the dignity of victims and deprives them of the willingness to work. There are cases of power harassment leading to absence from work, resignation and even death. In workplaces where abuse of power is forgiven, productivity may decline and cause an exodus of employees.

Businesses should keep in mind the need to take appropriate steps.

How to draw a line between power harassment and instruction in a job is difficult. There are not a few cases in which arguments differ between the people in managerial positions and their subordinates. There is also the possibility that judgment on whether something is power harassment will be divided depending on the situation and the way of speaking.

Many firms express concern that an increasing number of people in managerial posts hesitate to caution their subordinates in a bid to avoid trouble, with some saying that this causes problems in personnel training.

Ordering employees who are off work to come to the office and demanding that those who refuse to do so resign; assigning hard-to-complete quotas and reprimanding those who fail to meet them in the presence of others — words and actions like these have been determined to be problematic in court trials over power harassment.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will work out guidelines to determine what actions amount to power harassment. The ministry is called on to present concrete examples of power harassment that are understandable to the people at workplaces.

Compared with big businesses, small and medium-size companies lack knowhow in labor management and tend to delay implementing power harassment preventive measures, including the installation of consultation sections. It is imperative to provide assistance measures, including holding seminars designed specifically for small and midsize firms and dispatching experts to them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2019)Speech


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