Bullying is any unreasonable behaviour towards a worker or group of workers that is of a repetitive nature, that poses a risk to the health and safety of the worker and others within the workplace.
Under the Fair Work Act a worker is defined as:
- An Employee
- A Contractor
- A Sub Contractors
- An Apprentice
- A Trainee
- An Intern
- A work experience student
- A Volunteer
- An Outworker (performs work at home or within a facility that would not usually be defined as a workplace)
Bullying in the Workplace
Examples of bullying in the workplace:
- Setting unreasonable tasks of too much or too little, below or beyond an employee’s skill/role level
- Exclusion from work-related events both internal and external to the workplace and hours
- Pressure to behave inappropriately
- Partaking in practical jokes
- Teasing or spreading rumours
- Behaving aggressively towards others
- Displaying offensive materials
- Making intimidating or humiliating comments
- Psychological harassment
The following are common (but not exclusive) workplace symptoms of bullying:
- Scared or experiencing feelings of fear
- Lacking in confidence
- Stressed, anxious or depressed around work related activities and the workplace
- Desire to avoid the workplace
- Physical signs of stress such as sleep issues or back aches
- Impact upon relationships outside of work
- Unsuccessful in achieving goals and tasks within the workplace
Bullying and Discrimination
Bullying in the workplace that is in response to age, gender, impairment such as pregnancy or disability, race or religion are also concerns of discrimination. In particular, sexual and racial harassment are against the law.
Preventing Workplace Bullying
The Fair Work Act enforces laws that aim to stop bullying within the workplace. Employers must abide by these laws, implementing preventative measures to reduce the risk of bullying within the work environment. In response, all workplaces are required to have a defined, ‘Bullying and Harassment Policy’ and are advised to conduct regular policy training for all employees to ensure that they understand the expectations set and procedures required of them to help enforce such.
If an employee feels that they are being bullied within the workplace, the initial response should see them approach:
- A supervisor or management
- Human resource manager or office
- A health and safety representative
Should an employee feel that this approach has not resulted in Reasonable Management Action then external approach should be made to:
- HR Consultant – Assurance HR Management
- A union representative
- A lawyer
- The Fair Work Commission
There are other bodies in which an employee can contact in response to bullying in the workplace:
- State or territory anti-discrimination body
- State or territory workplace health and safety body
- The Australian Human Rights Commission
Reasonable Management Action
Reasonable Management Action is the action made by management in response to claims of management or prior to, demonstrating an effort to stop or prevent bullying behaviours in the workplace.
These actions are inclusive of:
- Performance management reviews and regular process
- Imposing disciplinary action for misconduct that breaches the workplace bullying policy
- Addressing inappropriate workplace behaviours or underperformance
- Maintaining workplace goals and conduct
If the above actions are not conducted in a reasonable manner, then they may still be defined as bullying. A reasonable manner is justified as feedback or disciplinary action that is carried out in a fair and clear approach that aligns with company policies and procedures.
Employees are eligible to lodge a workplace bullying claim with the Fair Work Commission on the terms that they are still working for the employer.
Fair Work have 14 days to address the application and provide the employer with 7 days to respond, which is followed by a hearing that determines if bullying is occurring and if it is foreseen that such behaviours will continue.
If the tribunal rule in support of bullying within the workplace, the employer may be asked to take actions to stop the bullying behaviour and asked to review the ‘bullying and harassment policy’, with further training and awareness around this amongst employees. The Fair Work commission cannot hand down penalties or requisite compensations for bullying claims.
Assurance HR can assist you in maintaining a bullying free and harmonious workplace by facilitating regular review of policies and procedures, and implementing preventative and responsive measures that ensure compliance with Fair Work and relevant legislation.