Recent Precedent 2013 - Issue 3

Posted on 21 August 2013

Anti-Bullying Measures

On 27 June 2013, Federal Parliament enacted amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 designed to stop bullying in the workplace. The new anti-bullying measures commence on January 1, 2014 and allow workers who believe they are being bullied at work to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop bullying in their workplace.

What do the New Laws Mean?

Any person who carries out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking will be defined “a worker” and includes a contractor and student gaining work experience or a volunteer. A worker will be deemed to have been bullied if the worker is at work and either an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards the worker, or a group of workers of which the worker is a member and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Where the FWC is satisfied that the applicant has been bullied and that there is a risk that the bullying will continue then they may make any order it considers appropriate to prevent the worker from being bullied. Once the order to cease bullying behaviour is made by the FWC any person or entity who contravenes the order is liable to a maximum penalty of 60 penalty units ($10,200.00 for an individual and $51,000.00 for a corporation).

What Every Business Must do to Comply

Persons who conduct a business or undertaking will need to evaluate their workplace policies and procedures prior to the commencement of the new laws to avoid ill-informed bullying claims against them. In preparation for the new laws commencing, employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking should consider the following points:

• Does your business have a policy on bullying which all employees have been provided with and understand?;

• Is there ongoing training at all staffing levels to ensure employees understand what actually constitutes bullying and what does not?;

• Do your employees understand the difference between bullying and what could be deemed reasonable management actions or supervision of their work?; and

• Does your business have a grievance policy and a dispute resolution procedure?

Struggling to Keep Up?

By reviewing and implementing well thought out and clearly worded, bullying policies in your business which are supplemented by ongoing training for all staff you will reduce bullying in the workplace and help limit your exposure to both legitimate and unfounded bullying claims lodged with FWC by workers.