New laws passed through federal parliament on 27 June 2013 amending the Fair Work Act to introduce new anti-bullying measures. These measures will allow a worker to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order or orders to stop the worker being bullied at work.

What is bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

What do the new bullying laws mean for your organisation?

The new laws mean that a “worker” who has been bullied at work can apply directly to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying.

Critically, following the lead of the model Work Health and Safety laws, the new laws have adopted an expanded definition of “worker” which includes any individual performing work in any capacity.  This includes contractors, subcontractors (and their employees), employees of a labour hire companies, volunteers and work experience students.

The FWC general manager, Bernadette O’Neill, recently told a Senate estimates hearing that the commission anticipated an additional 3,500 bullying complaints annually as a result of these new laws.

When do these new laws commence?

The new provisions will take effect from 1 January 2014.

What you should do?

The best way to mitigate the risks associated with bullying claims is to have a comprehensive suite of workplace policies (HR and Work Health and Safety) designed to develop a positive workplace culture.

A clearly defined policy dealing with workplace bullying is a must.  However, this policy cannot stand alone.  It must be fully integrated with other human resources and workplace safety policies and procedures such as those dealing with acceptable conduct and standards of behaviour (often encapsulated in a Code of Conduct), social media, stress and the management of internal grievance, or EEO and anti-discrimination issues. These last policies must include notification and response protocols and procedures for incidences of alleged bullying.

Remember that a policy is worthless (and in fact dangerous) if it is not implemented properly.  Proper implementation requires training of staff. You must also maintain records of this training to prove that the relevant policies have been implemented properly – this is especially important if you end up on the wrong end of a claim.

How can CompliSpace help?

CompliSpace’s comprehensive range of cost effective human resources policies, procedures, training and testing modules, ensure that managers and staff know what is expected of them and have key tools and information at their fingertips at all times. This enables a business to meet its workplace relations obligations while building a positive corporate culture, capturing knowledge and saving time.  For more information, contact us on the details below:

Contact Details

P: +61 (2) 9299 6105 (Sydney) / +61 (8) 9288 1826 (Perth)

E:  contactus@complispace.com.au

W: www.complispace.com.au

This blog is a guide to keep readers updated with the latest information. It is not intended as legal advice or as advice that should be relied on by readers. The information contained in this blog may have been updated since its posting, or it may not apply in all circumstances. If you require specific or legal advice, please contact us on (02) 9299 6105 and we will be happy to assist.