Toughing Up on Workplace Bullies

April 9, 2014

1 January 2014 marks the start of new workplace bullying laws. The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, came into effect at the beginning of the year, following a 2013 report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment entitled Workplace Bullying “We just want it to stop”. The report recognised the need to establish both fast and accessible ways to put a stop to workplace bullying before it becomes damaging to a person’s health and safety.

Under the new laws, a worker is bullied at work if while engaged by a constitutionally-covered business, another individual, or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker, and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Since January 1, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has the power to receive complaints from any worker employed by a constitutionally covered business and make any order it considers appropriate, other than the payment of money, to rectify the situation and stop bullying.

What this means for employees:

As an employee you should ensure:

  • That you familiarise yourself with and comply with all your workplace anti-bullying and harassment policies;
  • That you report any workplace bullying or harassment to your supervisor; and
  • That if you are experiencing workplace bullying or harassment that you apply to the FWC for an order to stop the bullying.

What this means for employers:

As an employer you should ensure:

  • That you understand the new laws and are clear about your obligations under such laws;
  • That you develop and implement clear anti-bullying and harassment policies and procedures in your business/workplace;
  • You are aware that “worker” can include contractors, sub-contractors, apprentices, students, trainees and volunteers; and
  • Are aware that failure to comply with anti-bullying orders made by the FWC may attract a fine.

Make sure that you and your business are prepared for the new changes, don’t wait for issues to arise, get proactive and start implementing your anti-bullying and harassment procedures today.

If you would like advice on this issue, please contact Edmund on his direct line (03) 8873 6817 or edmund@hutchinsonlegal.com.au

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