It is the employer who has the responsibility for seeing that the work environment is healthy and safe, that victimisation is prevented and that those affected are taken care of.

By bullying or victimisation is meant acts that are experienced as violating or in another way undesirable by the person or persons who are subjected to them.

In studies of bullying it is common that bullying is defined as repeated negative acts over a period of time (often at least 6 months), aimed at an individual or a group. In the definition is also included that there is a prevailing imbalance in power between the perpetrator and the victim, and that the actions lead to the victim being placed outside the social community at the workplace.

Primary risks with bullying

A starting point for preventing the risk of bullying or victimisation is that the employer looks over the organisational conditions at the workplace. It is about how one organises the activities, how one communicates internally, as well as how the work is managed.

Demands placed on the organisation from the surroundings, and which have not been able to be handled in a good way can increase the risk of bullying.

Risks can be:

  • no clarity when it comes to division of tasks, expectations of performance, and roles at the workplace
  • high workload
  • being subjected to threats and violence
  • victimisation and harassment from clients, patients, families and so on
  • pressure for change, rationalisation and restructuring, which leads to insecurity and competition conditions between the employees.

Signs of bullying and victimisation can be:

  • reduced efficiency and productivity
  • high absenteeism due to illness
  • high staff turnover
  • low tolerance to stress as well as general symptoms of discomfort
  • psychosomatic symptoms connected with the work
  • difficulties cooperating with others
  • personal conflicts
  • seeking scapegoats
  • work climate characterised by tension
  • jargon or jokes with which everyone is not comfortable.

Responsibility for preventing bullying

The employer has the responsibility for preventing bullying at the workplace. It is important that the employer makes it very clear that bullying and victimisation is not accepted and should not occur at the workplace. It is appropriate that this is expressed within the framework of the existing work environment policy.

The employer needs to have a state of preparedness for if it should happen. Through having clear procedures, this can be provided. Safety representatives and employees should be given the prerequisites to cooperate in the work of creating procedures.

Management needs to know:

  • when they should step in
  • who should step in
  • what should be done
  • how the person who steps in should go about it
  • when it is more appropriate to hire external help, for example from occupational health services.

Systematic work environment management (AFS 2001:1), provision

Organisational and social work environment (AFS 2015:4Eng), provisions

Preventive work against bullying

Managers and supervisors should pursue systematic work environment management to prevent bullying and victimisation arising. It is about organising the operation so that work allocation, expectations about work performance and roles are clear and well established between everyone at the workplace.

Management must clearly express that bullying is not accepted. In the guidelines, policies and procedures that should exist, it must be clear what the signals of bullying and victimisation are.

It must be clear from the procedures:

  • to whom bullying incidents should be reported
  • what measures should be taken when bullying occurs
  • who takes care of these measures
  • what help and support the victims should receive.

To have close contact with the staff and be informed about how they are doing is also an important task for management.

Employee’s report

The Swedish Work Environment Authority would like to emphasise that bullying and victimisation at work is first and foremost a question for the employer and the safety organisation at the work place.

We do not

  • assist any party in conflicts at the workplace
  • take a position about who is to blame for bullying and victimisation
  • deal with questions about compensation or damages for what has taken place.

To report bullying and victimisation to us, one should turn to the safety representative, who can make a report. It can also be a question for the trade union that organises the employees at the workplace. When an individual employee makes a report to us it is called an ’employee’s report’.

About an employee’s report 

According to 28 chap.14 § in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (OFSL), strict confidentiality applies for the employee’s report in matters about worker protection. The aim of the stipulation is that an employee should be able to contact us and, without repercussions, give us information about work environment shortcomings at the workplace.

After the report we make a decision about possible measures in the form of, for example, inspection visits. We protect the report by classifying it as confidential. This means in practice that we, if we receive a request from the employer or other external party, answer that we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a report.


Systematic work environment management (AFS 2001:1), provision

Organisational and social work environment (AFS 2015:4Eng), provisions

Last updated 2020-05-06