Eliminate workplace bullying – new anti-bullying laws

On 28 June 2013 a significant change to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) came into effect which will knuckle down on bullying in the workplace.


What is bullying?

We’ve all seen references to the classic schoolyard bullying where the bigger kid pushes a weaker schoolmate into the girls’ toilets; but how are things different when you grow up and enter the workforce?

Bullying can be intended or unintended. It can also be direct or indirect. Examples of direct bullying include using abusive language, spreading rumours, making inappropriate comments, teasing, physical assault or threats – much of which doesn’t sound all that different to the school playground.

Indirect bullying on the other hand may include unreasonably overloading a person with work, not providing a person with enough work consistent with their position, setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or deliberately denying access to information.

It is interesting to note that under the Fair Work Act bullying does not include “reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable way”, however “reasonable management action” is not defined.

The new laws

From 1 January 2014 workers who are being bullied will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. Until now employees have generally been protected under the relevant work health and safety legislations, however the Fair Work Act now provides workers with the opportunity to seek redress and resolve the issue through a relatively simple and inexpensive process.

What are the implications?

Fair Work Commission is to start dealing with a bullying application within 14 days of the application being made. If the employer is found to have bullied the employee, the Fair Work Commission may make an appropriate order to prevent the bullying.

The order will not include payment of money to the worker, however if an employer is found to have contravened the Fair Work Commission’s order it may be subject to a civil remedy provision which attracts a civil penalty of up to $10,200 per contravention for an individual employer and $51,000 for a corporation.

What should I do?

It is always best practice for employers to try and resolve a complaint internally and avoid the matter escalating to Fair Work.

Employers should familiarise themselves with what constitutes bullying behaviour and take measures to prevent bullying in their workplace. redchip lawyers can assist employers in this process, offering assistance in:

  1. Introducing and/or updating workplace anti-bullying policies;
  2. Training management, staff and HR personnel on the relevant workplace policies and procedures;
  3. Undertaking appropriate investigation of bullying complaints; and
  4. Maintenance of appropriate records in relation to bullying complaints.

Further information

For more information on the new anti-bulling laws or to help rectify your bullying policies, please email Manja Lalovic of our office at ManjaL@redchip.com.au or phone our office on (07) 3223 6100.

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