According to the amended Fair Work Act of 2009, victimisation, harassment, or bullying is defined as the repeated and unreasonable behavior that is directed towards a certain group of employees or an individual worker which creates a risk to safety and health.
The said Act indicated that bullying claims may now be lodged by work students, volunteers, trainees, subcontractors, contractors and employees.
In cases of bullying allegations, they may be referred directly to the Fair Work Commission. Upon receipt of the formal complaint, the organisation will deal with it by making some orders which will finally settle the complaint or refer the matter to the work safety and health regulator of the State.
The Fair Work Commission has the discretion to impose on employers monetary penalties which can reach up to $30,000 and order the company to resolve the issue and implement certain acts in order to thwart further cases of bullying.
The good news is that a worker who wants to file a complaint may be urged to do so because of the amended laws, allowing him or her to go directly to the Commission instead of waiting on efforts from the employer. Because of its “no costs” policy, even if the complainant was not able to rightfully prove the claims, the employer will still be liable for the costs.
An employer who has been accused of bullying in the working environment can claim the defense that there was reasonable action implemented in a reasonable time period and manner. Employers are tasked to make sure that the management of staff and performance reviews are handled in such a way that they will be safeguarded against bullying.
If you are an employer, you should be doing the following:
•Implement and prepare an effective policy against bullying in the workplace, which should also include a clear and precise definition of what “workplace bullying” is, together with a statement which indicates, in simple and understandable language, that the practice is unlawful.
•Make sure that the whole process which is involved in handling bullying complaints includes a specific procedure on how to deal with these allegations.
•Clarify everything to the employees, including explaining all the consequences to those who have already been engaged in bullying and those who have experienced it, but are too afraid to speak up.
•Ensure your employees that all performance management procedures are implemented reasonably and fairly, exercised in a manner that is just and favors no particular group of workers.
All employees vary, with every individual comprising of different backgrounds, vulnerabilities, strengths and personality traits. However, it is without a doubt, that employees should be aware of the fact that every employer all over Australia is duty-bound by the laws and statutes implemented in the State to look after the safety and health of their workers. How employers respond to several complaints is important not only for the speedy resolution of the issue but also in managing the legal risks the company may be exposed to.
General advice warning
The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions. Please contact our Occupational Health and Safety Consultants for further information.