Both the Working Environment Act and the basic agreement point out the need for participation and cooperation in order to achieve a good working environment.
Conflicts may always arise as a natural consequence of the objectives, structures, work processes and work distributions in the organisation.
Besides giving the employer an overall responsibility for conflict management, the labour laws, agreements and regulations provide the individual employee with rights and duties that must be respected. Moreover reference is made to a number of third parties with formal roles, such as the safety delegates, the employee representatives and the occupational health service (BHT).
- Safety delegates
- Union representatives
- Role distribution between safety delegates and union representatives
- The occupational health service (BHT)
- The university's top management
The term manager (employer) is here used to describe anyone with HR responsibility.
Managers are responsible for organising and directing the work so that no employees are exposed to unfortunate physical or mental strains.
Managers have an overall responsibility for undertaking necessary measures to ensure a fully satisfactory working environment. If a manager becomes aware of a possible conflict situation, he or she has a duty of care towards the person affected and a duty to actively bring the unwanted situation to an end.
It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the matter is followed up according to the university's conflict management guidelines:
- Ensure that all parties in the conflict are properly taken care of – duty of action
- Consider the actual situation and the consequences it implies for those involved
- Upon violations of acts or regulations, ensure that necessary and appropriate measures are undertaken to restore a safe working environment.
Managers must also act if they suspect improper conduct. The relationship of trust that often exists between managers and employees is a crucial element in the execution of the managerial role, but it is important to remember the manager’s duty to act when suspecting violations of the Working Environment Act's provisions regarding danger to life or health.
If an employee addresses the manager with a wish for change in the working conditions and the manager suspects that the reason behind the request is a third party’s improper conduct, the manager must balance the employee's right to not complain about others and his own duty to investigate and act.
If a manager is unsure of how to proceed or has a personal interest or preference in the case, he/she should seek advice from a manager colleague, a manager at a higher level, HR or the HSE unit. HR may, if necessary, communicate with the occupational health service. The Labour Inspection Authority can also advise.
Managers should self-assess their own role and possible disqualification in case of suspicion, whistleblowing or appeals processing. Ask for assistance from the local HR unit upon disqualification or uncertainty about this.
The safety delegate shall safeguard the employees' interests in matters relating to the working environment (wea. section 6-2), including the psychosocial working environment.
The safety delegate shall ensure that cases of bullying or other cases of improper conduct are addressed by the employer and that he or she follows up on notifications within a reasonable period of time. The specific conflict management must be left to the employer.
The safety delegate is obliged to report to the employer about conditions involving possible health hazards (wea. section 6-2 (3)). This means that if the safety delegate becomes aware of conditions violating the Working Environment Act, he or she is required to report this to the employer even if it goes against the will of the person aggrieved.
The safety delegate has a duty of confidentiality towards the person making the inquiry, but the safety service is obliged to act independently of the duty of confidentiality upon suspicion of danger to life or health.
The safety delegate can stop the work in case of emergency danger to life or health.
Union representatives shall safeguard the members’ interests in relation to legislation and agreements, as further described in the General Agreement. Union representatives may act as assessors in conflict cases.
Union representatives can be an important support for employees and an employer's partner when it comes to preventing harassment, improper conduct and hard personal conflicts. It is important that the union representative informs the person seeking advice of his/her opportunities and the possible consequences involved.
Union representatives has the right to, but are not obliged to, notify if someone has addressed them seeking advice with a desire for confidentiality in the matter. This applies even if the union representative believes there is a violation of the Working Environment Act.
The trade union representatives and the safety delegates are key players who should contribute in making the university’s workplace attractive and in developing and improving the working environment. Safety delegates and union representatives are players on the same arena, but with different starting points and different regulations and agreements to adhere to. A consensus document providing a summary of the roles and the most important differences between the two has been drawn up between the safety service and the trade unions at OsloMet.
HR executive officers and advisors must be familiar with the university's conflict management guidelines and know who to address. If they receive inquiries about possible conflict situations, they must inform about the relevant guidelines, procedures and legislation, while helping to establish contact with the right person.
If unsure, seek advice from someone who can help - the local HR head of department or the HR director.
All employees have a duty to cooperate when problems arise in the working environment (wea. section 2-3). Employees shall actively cooperate on implementation of measures to create a satisfactory and safe working environment. The duty to cooperate includes ensuring that the employer or safety delegate is notified as soon as you discover harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
The duty to cooperate applies even if the victim of the incident does not wish to proceed with the case. If you are unsure about how to proceed to notify, you can contact the employee representative, the local HR unit or the safety delegate for advice.
No one must under any circumstances impose punitive measures (gossip, revenge, exclusion, verbal abuse and the like) against the one who allegedly has acted in an improper manner. Such behaviour also violates the Working Environment Act.
The occupational health service can take on different roles in these cases. BHT will assist in creating healthy and safe working conditions. They are subject to duty of confidentiality and must have a neutral, free and independent position (wea. section 3-3 (2) and (3).
The occupational health service can be a good advisor for both managers, safety delegates, employee representatives and employees who are unsure about how to proceed if they suspect or experience conflict situations.
The head of local HR can establish contact with BHT.
The university's top management
The rector has the overall responsibility for OsloMet's systematic health, safety and environment work. This includes work environment mappings and risk assessments, appeal processing systems and counselling / management support for managers. The administration of these tasks is delegated to subordinate units.