Adrienne B. Hubert
Since 1994 employers in The Netherlands have been legally obliged through the Working Conditions Act to protect their employees from sexual harassment and (psychological) aggression at the workplace and their negative consequences. Several kinds of undesirable behaviour are covered by this legislation, for example sexual harassment, mobbing/bullying, racism, and aggression from clients, patients and the public towards employees. In 1996 I started the first scientific research on mobbing in The Netherlands at the University of Leiden. The taboo on mobbing being broken, there appeared to be a great need for information on this subject by journalists, victims of mobbing and, somewhat later, by Dutch companies and Occupational Health Services (OHS). In 1999 the Working Conditions Act was changed and now obliged employers to establish a policy concerning sexual harassment and (psychological) aggression. That year I started a company on applied research and consultancy regarding issues such as mobbing, conflicts and undesirable behaviour. On the basis of scientific research, I provide information to organisations and professionals involved with mobbing, discussing the way mobbing is being dealt with at the time.
In order to conform to the legislation, Dutch organisations took several measures. One-third of all organisations (34 per cent), for example, appointed one or more employees as confidential counsellors, where victims of sexual harassment (and evermore frequently of mobbing) could seek support and guidance. Seventeen per cent of Dutch organisations have a grievance committee and have a complaints procedure for sexual harassment established (Soethout and Sloep, 2000). In 2000, my own company, Hubert Consult, together with Research voor Beleid (a Dutch institute for applied research) was invited to participate in a study at the request of the Dutch Federation of trade unionism (FNV). The main questions in the study were how undesirable behaviour in organisations should be tackled and managed, and what the specific responsibilities of the various professional disciplines involved should