New bullying laws commence on 1 January 2014
– is your workplace prepared?
In a move to further stop workplace bullying, new antibullying measures have been incorporated into (the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)) and will commence from 1 January 2014.
The amendments mean that workers who believe they are the target of workplace bullying can bypass their employer and lodge a claim directly with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to order employers to take action against the bullying.
The new laws will also require the FWC to deal with an employee’s application within 14 days as a matter of priority. This change is likely to bring about an increase in the number of complaints received by the FWC. These changes are significant and will have far reaching implications for employers.
As the employer will have to appear before the FWC within 14 days, they may not have the time to properly investigate the matter, assess the validity of the claim and/or take appropriate remedial action.
The introduction of the new laws reinforces how important it is that employers have robust policies in
place to address bullying, provide adequate training and take all the necessary steps to respond to and investigate complaints.
Who does the law apply to?
The term worker extends to any person who carries out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking, including; employees, contractors and subcontractors, volunteers, apprentices, trainees and work experience students.
What is bullying?
Bullying is defined as repeated or unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health or safety.
This includes; victimising, humiliating or threatening behaviour, setting tasks unreasonably below or beyond an employee's skill level, unjustified criticism or scrutiny and setting unreasonable deadlines.
However, bullying does not include dissatisfaction or grievances with management practices.
Bullying is the workplace issue of our time. It can happen in any workplace and could happen to
anyone. It can affect a victim’s ability to do their job, lead to psychological conditions such as anxiety
and depression, and have an impact on physical wellbeing. For employers, bullying can lead to losses
in productivity, high staff turnover, absenteeism, low morale, and, in some cases, legal or regulatory penalties and damage to reputation.
What should employers do to prepare for 1 January 2014?
- Review the following guides published by Safe Work Australia - Dealing with workplace bullying – a worker's guide Nov 2013 and the Guide for Preventing and responding to workplace bullying Nov 2013
- review your organisation’s policies and procedures concerning bullying, harassment, investigations and complaints and grievances
- arrange for all officers, managers and employees to undergo relevant training
Like to know more? CCI has a number of useful publications to help.
CCI’s online training course, Essentials of Bullying and Harassment, available via CCI Learning Manager, the company’s web-based training system, has been designed to help clients meet their various compliance obligations and ensure a safe and harassment-free work environment.
Also available is the guide Making Your Workplace a Safe Place and a Hazard on Workplace Bullying on this website. To speak to one of our Risk Consultants, call the risksupport Helpdesk on 1300 660 827.