The Australian government introduced new anti-bullying legislation on 1 January 2014 as a way of cracking down on bullying in the workplace and making organisations accountable for what is happening in the workplace. This means that employees who reasonably believe that they have been bullied are eligible to make an application directly to the Fair Work Commission to have their case reviewed and obtain an order to prevent further bullying.
These anti-bullying laws were brought in to ensure that employees work in a safe and healthy environment and are not exposed to any unreasonable behaviour that would pose risks to their health and safety.
What constitutes workplace bullying?
This means educating staff on what constitutes bullying such as: intimidating or aggressive behaviour, spreading malicious rumours, humiliating comments, teasing or even exclusion from work-related events.
What isn’t workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying should not be treated the same as ‘reasonable management actions’ that are reasonably carried out as part of business operations such as performance management, disciplinary action due to employee misconduct or informing employees of poor performance or work behaviour. So long as these processes are carried out in a reasonable manner, they are not considered bullying. However it should be noted that if such actions are not carried out reasonably, they can still be classed as bullying.
What should organisations do?
This is an opportunity for organisations to review their existing company policies, have a clear anti-bullying policy and ensure that they enforce their policies. Ensuring that workplace policies also includes clear grievance procedures for those who feel they have been bullied so that employees know who they can speak to about their concerns, such as their direct manager or HR department. Furthermore, the policies should also set out investigation and disciplinary procedures so that the matter is addressed adequately and further bullying is prevented.
Consequences of not addressing workplace bullying
- Low employee morale
- Disharmony within the workplace
- High staff turnover
- Organisations’ reputation tarnished
- Bad press and media publicity
- Potential law suit and severe financial penalties
For more information on workplace bullying, visit the Fair Work Commission website here.
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