Explore the terminology in use in this area. 


Assault is defined as where a person applies force to or causes an impact on the body of another, or causes another to believe on reasonable grounds that they are likely immediately to be subjected to any such force or impact, and that this is done intentionally or recklessly, without their consent and without lawful excuse.

Source: Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act


The Health and Safety Authority’s definition of bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. Some examples of bullying include but are not limited to:

  • Verbal: personal insults, demeaning remarks, regular humiliation often in front of others, nicknames, ridicule, threats;
  • Non-verbal or indirect: exclusion with negative consequences, hostile attitude, spreading malicious rumours;
  • Abuse of power: regular excessive and inappropriate criticism, deliberately and maliciously withholding work-related information in order to undermine a colleague, repeatedly manipulating a person’s job content and targets without due cause;
  • Physical: aggressive behaviour, physical intimidation, unwelcome physical contact up to and including assault;
  • Communications technology: insulting texts, emails, derogatory comments on social media.

An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to an individual’s dignity but, as a once-off incident, is not considered to be bullying.

Coercive Behaviour & Control

According to the An Garda Síochána website, coercive control is "a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, financial, sexual including threats) by a boyfriend/girlfriend, partner, husband/wife or ex-partner.

This can have a serious impact including the fear of violence, cause serious alarm and distress and can result in a person giving up work, changing their routines, losing contact with family and friends. Coercive control can damage a person’s physical and emotional well-being.

Coercive control can be difficult to detect from the outside looking into a relationship, so too can it be hard to spot when in the relationship itself. As the behaviour worsens and each iteration of abuse becomes a new normal, low self-esteem is just one of the many factors that can stop victims from seeing the reality of their situation."

Source: https://www.garda.ie/en/crime/domestic-abuse/



Cyberbullying can be defined as bullying conducted online, but according to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 also includes, but is not limited to:

  • Distributing, publishing or threatening to distribute or publish intimate image without consent with intent to cause harm or being reckless as to whether harm is caused
  • Recording, distributing or publishing intimate image without consent
  • Distributing, publishing or sending threatening or grossly offensive communication



According to the Equal Status Acts, discrimination is defined as occuring where a person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any one of the following grounds:

  1. Age
  2. Civil Status
  3. Disability
  4. Family Status
  5. Gender
  6. Membership of the Traveller community
  7. Race
  8. Religion
  9. Sexual Orientation

UCC also includes Socio-Economic Status as a tenth ground. This is not currently covered under Irish legislation. 


Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. The discriminatory grounds are:

  • Age
  • Civil Status
  • Disability
  • Family Status
  • Gender
  • Membership of the Traveller community
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation

UCC also includes Socio-Economic Status as a tenth ground. This is not currently covered under Irish legislation. 

Harassment may consist of a single incident or repeated inappropriate behaviour. Examples of Harassment (not exhaustive):

  • Verbal harassment – jokes, comments, ridicule or songs
  • Written harassment – including faxes, text messages, emails, notices or comments on social media
  • Physical harassment – jostling, shoving or any form of assault
  • Intimidatory harassment – gestures, posturing or threatening poses
  • Visual displays such as posters, emblems or badges
  • Isolation or exclusion from social activities
  • Excessive monitoring of work
  • Unreasonably changing a person’s job content or targets
  • Pressure to behave in a manner that the employee thinks is inappropriate, for example being required to dress in a manner unsuited to a person’s ethnic or religious background.


Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. Sexual Harassment may consist of a single incident or repeated inappropriate behaviour. Examples of sexual harassment (not exhaustive):

  • Unwanted physical contact such as unnecessary touching, patting, or pinching or brushing against another employee’s body, assault and coercive sexual intercourse;
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, propositions or pressure for sexual activity, continued suggestions for social activity outside the workplace after it has been made clear that such suggestions are unwelcome, unwanted or offensive flirtations, suggestive remarks, innuendos or lewd comments;
  • Sexual jokes, stories, comments, use of telephone or radio systems for inappropriate suggestive comments;
  • Telling lies or spreading rumours about a colleague’s sex life;
  • Display of pornographic or sexually suggestive pictures, objects, written materials, slogans, graffiti, emails, text messages, faxes, comments or posts on social media.
  • Derogatory, intimidatory or degrading abuse or insults which are genderrelated.


The intention of the perpetrator of the sexual harassment or harassment is irrelevant. The fact that the perpetrator has no intention of sexually harassing or harassing the employee is no defence. The effect of the behaviour on the employee is what is relevant.


According to the Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Bill 2021, 'stalking behaviour’ means engaging in one or more than one of the following:

(a) persistently following, watching, pestering or communicating by any means of communication with or about a person;

(b) purporting to be the other person;

(c) attempting to make repeated, unwanted contact with a person or any other repeated, unwanted behaviour towards a person;

(d) making threats of violence, either directly or indirectly, against a person or against their family, their home, their colleagues, their friends, or their pets;

(e) loitering in the vicinity of a person in a manner that causes that person to experience fear, apprehension, fright or significant distress for themselves or others;

(f) monitoring or spying on a person by any means;

(g) interfering with the property of a person; or

(h) behaving in any other way that a reasonable person would expect would cause a person to suffer fear or alarm.

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