Addressing bullying in the workplace

Following a parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying the government proposed amendments the Fair Work Act to allow an employee who has suffered bullying at work a right to seek assistance through the Fair Work Commission from 1 July 2013 if passed.

The cost of workplace bullying is alarming with the Productivity Commission estimating the annual cost to the Australian economy to be between $6 billion and $36 billion. These productivity costs are only overshadowed by the enormous personal costs of workplace bullying on the victims, their families, their colleagues and their employers.

The Fair Work act amendments include:

  • Adopting the Committee’s recommended definition: ‘Bullying, harassment or victimisation means repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’
  • Recognising that bullying does not include reasonable management practices including performance management conducted in a reasonable manner
  • Allowing workers who have suffered bullying to make a complaint to the Fair Work Commission
  • Requiring the Fair Work Commission to deal with any application as a matter of priority including by listing the matter for consideration within 14 days
  • Enabling the Fair Work Commission to make orders to deal with the complaint and/or to refer to the relevant state WHS regulator

Other recommendations supported by the Government include Safe Work Australia developing materials for employers that provide advice on preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

Safe Work Australia will also work with the states and territories to develop nationally accredited training for managers and health and safety representatives to help them deal with bullying.

The Government has stated that they are committed to working with the states and territories to ensure Australia’s front line work health and safety inspectors have access to the training and skills to help them respond at the highest level when dealing with workplace bullying.

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