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The new workplace bullying laws: What they mean for you

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HC Online | 29 Jul 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
For the first time, from 1 January 2014, there will be an all-encompassing law that makes bullying conduct unlawful with a right to redress workplace bullying through the Fair Work Commission. Andrew Ball and Tass Angelopoulos outline what this means for business.
  • Marie-Brigitte Souci | 09 Sep 2013, 04:47 PM Agree 0
    Thank you for the post, and updates on the new legislation. I am so glad this is being addressed properly. It should expand beyond the walls of a work environment. Many suffer in silence for many years, some know how to take care of themselves and recover, but some never do. I sincerely hope most who unjustly suffer/ed from this recover quickly.
    Kind regards,
    Marie-Brigitte Souci
  • Sheree | 29 Nov 2013, 12:55 PM Agree 0
    Very important information for employees to be aware of. Quite often bullying is covert though, and the target can be rendered helpless and powerless. Hopefully this will help them to take back their power with redress facilities. Pity it comes to late for some who were severely bullied and took their own life.
    Warm regards
    Sheree Holland
  • Ann | 02 Dec 2013, 11:08 PM Agree 0
    Sheree, you are right on the money with your comment. I continue to suffer covert mobbing and bullying in my workplace. Regardless of insurance investigation and acceptance of my claim I am treated with disdain while the bullies get promoted. Bring on 2014 and the new laws. Enough is enough having your soul destroyed.
  • Sheree Holland | 03 Dec 2013, 05:12 PM Agree 0
    Please access extra emotional and psychological support - you have options. The bullies would like to render you powerless, that's because you most likely have something that they want or prize. Can you access employee assistance program or go to your GP and get a referral to a Psychologist through a Better Access to Mental Health Program? The GP will do up a mental health care plan, and you can choose the Psychologist you feel comfortable with, and with whom you have rapport.
    Warm regards
    Sheree Holland
  • Anonymous123 | 04 Dec 2013, 03:25 PM Agree 0
    Have you thought of leaving your place of employment? Not to say that is the best way out but if it is actually damaging you then it's in your best interest to find a workplace that better supports you.
  • Bernie Althofer | 04 Dec 2013, 04:11 PM Agree 0
    It will be interesting to see how quickly the public and private sector can come up to speed with these 'new' requirements.

    There has been considerable discussion, consultation and even media articles highlighting the potential changes.

    It is interesting to note the apparent increase in educational processes being offered to create awareness of these changes. As indicated in a number of discussion groups, it seems that in some cases, those who have key roles in being at the front line when it comes to providing advice, support and guidance to targets, alleged bullies and line managers and supervisors have limited or no access to various providers who may be able to assist in maintaining currency of knowledge e.g. this valuable resource.

    In my view, giving the apparent increase at least in discussions, there is a need for at least contact officers to be better educated regarding the changes. If they are better educated, they may be able to provide better support or guidance to those involved, and whilst they might not prevent some incidents, organisations may find that incidents are actually reported, and in which they, the organisation can make more informed strategic and operational decisions on how to address the causal factors.

    There are considerable resources and support systems available for those who have been or are being targeted. Some people do 'check out' contributors websites and manage to find links to appropriate groups.

    Bullying is a real issue that affects a wide cross section of people e.g. target, family/friends and associates and a host of others that the target may come into contact with.

    Education seems to be the key in informing all those involved that action can be taken, that targets can be supported and that bullying behaviours can be addressed. Changing workplace cultures from a situation where bullying is tolerated to the point of acceptance, to a culture where any form of counterproductive behaviour is unacceptable will take time.

    In the meantime, having an 'escape option' should be an issue that a target might need to consider. Sometimes one does have to walk away from a job they love, even if there is no other way of escaping the behaviours when those responsible fail to act.
  • Lisa | 09 Dec 2013, 09:51 PM Agree 0
    If only walking away from the job was the answer, my covert bullying extended into social circles in my life. It did not finish when I left the workplace. I just cannot believe that their are such evil people out there that would go to such extremes to destroy peoples lives. They know what they are doing and will try it on anyone they can. These people are such manipulators and they seem to be able to attract so many puppets that will follow their instructions. I cannot see how we can stop this happening to young children with these type of people already in our society.
  • Bernie Althofer | 10 Dec 2013, 10:21 AM Agree 0
    In the main, strategies to address workplace bullying seem to focus on the target. Strategies that specifically address the bullying behaviours or even removing the alleged bully from the workplace might be talked about, but don't seem to be enacted.

    I would like to think that given the changes that occurring in relation to WHS and bullying, that organisations i.e. officers etc will recognise that not only do they have a duty or an obligation to provide a safe environment for all, but they will also need to do something positive and proactive about addressing the behaviours i.e. alleged bully, and that might include termination of employment.

    Lisa has indicated that the tentacles of bullying behaviours extend beyond the workplace. I suspect that the power bases established by bullies are much wider and more dominating than what some people would like to admit. For example, one target indicated that they transferred from one Department to another, and when they arrived to take up duty, they were met with the words "So you are the troublemaker". It was obvious to the target that the bully had spread their tentacles to ensure the target would continue to be the subject of scrutiny no matter where they went.

    On the other hand, some business owners do take a hard line when it comes to bullying. For example, one target who worked in the hospitality are indicated that they had been 'groped' and subjected to inappropriate comments. The business owner happened to be a witness, rang the offenders business and told that business owner that under no circumstances was that person ever to come back to his business, otherwise he would take his business elsewhere.

    Walking away from a workplace can result in the best talent leaving, and then the organisation has to go through the entire recruitment, selection and placement process.
  • Realistically | 14 Dec 2013, 10:43 AM Agree 0
    Whilst bullying is out there in the workplace, let's not forget there are individuals who, in my experience, have rorted the system and lodged bogus bullying claims with nothing more than the intention of chasing a substantial monetary payout. Let's just hope these laws do not encourage this type of behaviour, but sadly some will be salivating at the opportunity. Very difficult for an employer to prove an individual has not been bullied yet all too easy for an individual to simply claim they were being bullied, with no real evidence except their own argument or " perception" of bullying, particularly when they are unable to perform their job for which they were hired. If people feel they are being bullied, what ever happened to stating to the person perpetrating the apparent bullying to stop immediately & back off - it's not that hard.
  • Lisa | 17 Dec 2013, 11:51 PM Agree 0
    It is not at all difficult for an employer to deny -- much MORE difficult to get an employer to acknowledge! Not that hard to tell the bully to "stop immediately and back off"? Realistically -- you have obviously NEVER BEEN BULLIED!
  • Bernie Althofer | 18 Dec 2013, 09:54 AM Agree 0
    One of the great difficulties that I have seen in relation to workplace bullying, is that invariably the target is seen as a 'whingeing malcontent who does not want to be a team player'. The person accused of bullying behaviour has managed to ingratiate themselves with more senior people or with key decision makers and 'influencers'.

    Whilst organisations may have policies and procedures that outline a number of resolution options including do nothing, handle the matter yourself (but only if safe to do so) through to seeking external advice, it has been my experience that most targets I have spoken to over the years will not attempt to handle the matter themselves. It would be good if a target was able to tell the alleged bully about their behaviours etc without fear of victimisation, intimidation or further bullying. However in reality, given that a target may be at their lowest point, asking or telling them to 'handle the matter themself' might only compound the situation. When providing advice to a target about this option, I would explain the risks involved.

    It has also been my experience that people that I considered to be very strong mentally and able to cope with pretty well everything, have found confronting an alleged bully impossible, and have actually walked away from their workplace, because they knew that to take on the bully would mean they might win the battle, but they would not win the war, and that anyone who might have supported them, would also be targeted.
  • Just Saying | 23 Jan 2014, 01:38 PM Agree 0
    The laws should be accessible to all employees at all times, not just when a person believes they are being bullied. The problem is, is that many bullies get away with it because most employees are unsure of there rights and exactly what constitutes reason in relation to performance and management. The laws would increase a person's confidence to speak up more if they could access them.
  • Janice | 14 Mar 2014, 06:17 AM Agree 0
    I agree that with the comment that termination of the bully's employment should be an available redress. Ordering the bully to stop their behaviour is not enough to resolve the problem for the victim who will have to continue to work with the bully and supporters of the bully. An order will not cause them to change their attitude towards the victim although they may stop doing certain actions. I can imagine how stressful it would continue to be for them and how it would negatively effect the work output.

    I think the wrong message is being sent. When a victim reports bullying; it is usually the victim and not the bully taken off the project or sent to another department. This action clearly says that it is the victim that is the problem and not the bully. By keeping the bully in the workplace we aren't expressing how society feels about bullying.
  • Someone in this situation | 14 Mar 2014, 05:59 PM Agree 0
    In regards to UN "Realistic"'s OFFENSIVE comments, I would not be surprised if you were yourself a perpetrator of said behaviour, or a boss who felt "hard done by" and disagreed to someone who has filed a complaint against him / her. Or someone who simply refused to see something like this going on, despite it being crystal clear to anyone, and ignored it! Like most bosses, hmmmmm........

    If you were NOT living in a dream world, "Realistic", you would see there is NO monetary benefit!
    Your insulting and imflammatory troll comments of

    "rorted the system and lodged bogus bullying claims with nothing more than the intention of chasing a substantial monetary payout"

    are completely based in fantasy land. You cannot sue for bullying, substantial payout, so prove it! Back up the garbage you're spouting! How can you say you know of someone rorting a system

    (as you would know of several, multiple persons going thru such an experience, and you would know intimately their case to an extent you would presumptuously assume it to be lies, RIGHT)

    and getting substantial payout when this does not happen by law???

    In regards to your insipid, inane comment about not being able to perform a job they're hired to do, would you not be functioning on less than 6 cylinders if you were subjected to hatred, abuse, derogatory remarks and behaviour, had your items constantly tampered with, etc etc every day, over a course of years (if you were "tough enough to handle it" that long)??? You must pride yourself on your "harden up" ethic but if you were to experience this you would probably go home and cry... I have seen it before, true story, for all your implied strength.

    And for your stupidly ignorant, dismissive final comment about things not being that hard to "just" tell someone to back off... what if said person / people / institutions JUST DO NOT BACK OFF, BUT INSTEAD INCREASE OR MULTIPLY TENFOLD THEIR EFFORTS??? Huh? Didn't think of that one did we UNrealistic...?

    Find something else to pick on and to act on your advice: Back off ignorant jerk!
  • Realistically | 30 Mar 2014, 10:38 PM Agree 0
    I just tell it like I see it, and I am definitely seeing it.
  • Dobbie | 02 Apr 2014, 01:23 PM Agree 0
    I believe everyone should be entitled to voice their opinion in this forum without being subjected to a barrage of abusive vitriol.

  • Realistically | 02 Apr 2014, 08:17 PM Agree 0
    Agree totally Dobbie
  • de | 13 Jul 2014, 10:36 PM Agree 0
    I don't want money I just want the bullying to stop
  • industry professional | 09 Aug 2014, 12:49 PM Agree 0
    if anyone would like to understand bullying more than just what is in current legislation or what they see in their workplace. Can I recommend you read Zapf, Dieter, and Claudia Gross. 2001. "Conflict escalation and coping with workplace bullying: A replication and extension." European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology no. 10 (4):497-522.
    The study clearly identified that traditional approaches to managing a conflict/ bully by the dual approach of conflict management skills and stress management techniques will not be successful in an escalated bullying situation. They state that the unequal power imbalance leaves the victim with very little control over the situation and, even when a victim applies passive strategies, there is little, if any, improvement in the situation. Active conflict management strategies (e.g. stop and back off) by contrast can lead to an increase in victimisation and an escalation of the situation. The study also identified that bullying behaviour also increases over time irrelevant of whether active or passive strategies are applied. It seems the most successful results come from when the bully’s manager intervenes early or, if in escalated stages, separates the bully and victim.
    From years of work in this area these situations never end well. I hope anyone in this a bullying situation gets professional help early and makes hard decisions before too much damage is done.
    Hope this helps someone.
  • mashed | 11 Oct 2014, 12:56 AM Agree 0
    What happens when your employer harasses you by lying about their responsibilities under workers comp guidelines? Every step of the way they lie and lie and your case takes years to resolve, even with a lawyer.
  • Mark | 21 Nov 2014, 06:10 AM Agree 0
    I have just left a workplace where bullying by the director was rife.
    As a male I was left relatively untouched(and unpaid).
    I witnessed a Chinese female worker being called yellow and being asked not to touch the director just in case he catches the "yellow".
    The same female being told hair was ugly and that she needed a hair transplant. Reducing other girls to tears because of intimidation. Getting girls to wipe their faces with tissues in order to see if they were wearing foundation(as this was against the rules). Chasing a nurse around the office and wetting the front of her skirt in order to make it look like she had wet herself.
    Now I have left the company I have contacted all of those that I had witnessed these events and am asking if they would like to take this further. Not sure if we have a leg to stand on as none of the incidents were documented.
  • had enough | 07 Jan 2015, 12:24 PM Agree 0
    Ive been working in a roadhouse for five months and have been bullied and harrassed for five months. Other employees havehad the same treatment from the same person. I have reported it for five months and documented thetreatment. My employer came to me and said he would have to sack me because he didnt want to loose business if he let the bully go as she gets on goodthe the truck drivers that come in. Is this legal? We are all casual workers can he do that to me? Any advice would be greatful.
  • Karyn | 09 Jan 2015, 02:18 PM Agree 0
    I work for a government department and had taken time off both on leave and leave without pay. I returned to work and was placed in a new role with his wife who was employed that year as my team leader. Prior to going on leave I had issues with my 'boss' which led to take the leave in the first place. I had 3 meetings all in excess of 1hr in the first week back. I only work 3 days a week. Once again his bullying ways had started. I finally had the courage to put in a formal complaint against him and this of course was dismissed. He continued making sure he bullied me within the boundaries along with his wife. All along they were making a case against me. After 6 days of total attendance at work ( I had taken days off on sick leave)he issued me with an unsatisfactory performance which was based on lies from his wife. I had asked them top provide me with evidence but it did not eventuate. I had received a total amount of 1 hour in this new role. Work/information was withheld from me from me performing my duties. I was spoken to disrespectfully from both his wife and himself, I was picked on and treated unfairly whilst others who were guilty of doing worse were getting away with everything. I had made several formal complaints now also against his wife and some of the other staff that I work with. He has hired his friends so what hope have I got to prove anything. I have not had a problem in the last 25 years of my profession and now my ability to do my job is under scrutiny.
    i have contacted work safe who will be investigating, but I have no witnesses who will come forward to help me because of fear.
    I attended work for a total of 15 days in 20 weeks. I'm not after money I just want the unsatisfactory performance of the table and not to be working with his wife who I was told Ill be doing again next year.
    The formal complaint his wife was not acknowledged by the department so I complained again and now just waiting for a response or an outcome.
    A man like this has definitely done this before and he will continue unless he is stopped.
    So if anyone else out can help me I would appreciate any thing although I've done my own research. I'm currently filling out a general protections claim with the Fair Work Commission.
    Don't want money, I haven't got the money to fight but I will continue to fight the battle even though I may lose the war.
  • Mark | 12 Jan 2015, 08:44 AM Agree 0
    I have followed comments here with interest and have also included my own experience.

    I have come to the conclusion that if you do not have the right contacts or resources fair work and OHS will not be of any assistance.

    I know this is very bad advice to give, especially to victims out there who are at the end of their tether, but for me I finally resorted to low doses of valium and moving on to a low paying job.

    This worked better for me than the stress of an ongoing battle with a nasty employer.

    Being honest and hardworking is not as valued in the workplace as it once was.
  • Geraldine Robertson | 12 Jan 2015, 12:18 PM Agree 0
    How do these laws affect the lying, illegal behaviour like asking your doctor to change your medical certificate to fit to work and general harassment from Work Cover and Injury management?
  • Chris Colins | 29 Apr 2015, 06:15 PM Agree 0
    I suffered severe workplace bullying. I have now a mental illness and I have been on a pension for 10 years. I have never had closure on this subject and It's fantastic that there are new laws to combat this very serious act of aggression. I hope people who get bullied make a complaint as soon as possible so that this problem is stomped out.
  • s | 04 Jul 2015, 02:47 PM Agree 0
    It would be great if this was retrospective.
    Bullying can be deastating for victims. The present situation has resulted in much inequity, leaving some individuals to their own devices. For those who have been mentally scarred by the experience; the cost of treatment and counselling can be oppressive, (especially if the experience has deprived them of the ability and confidence to work). Denial of basic services and assistance is inhumane. It only compounds the problems of an individual who is already suffering.
    How many more suicides and negative societal consequences have to pass while they quibble about the cost of attributing liability?
  • Heather | 18 Sep 2016, 02:02 AM Agree 0
    Seek legal advice. I have found in my experience, that is easier for an employer to relinquish the services of the victim rather than deal effectively with the bullying behaviour of the perpetrator. The bullies seem to get promoted and then lord it over you and the victim is left emotionally and psychologically damaged. Go legal lovely!!
  • sue Ann | 10 Oct 2016, 01:28 PM Agree 0
    I am currently facing a kind of harassment which ordinary person will not be able to endure! Being falsely accused, targetted and shouted at even though i may not be wrong. Life is so sweet for those who are behind this harassment, but a victim i am, life is almost to an meaningless to live on seeing all kind of evil intention by the wicked ones..all those who left were treated the same. But even voicing out to higher authority...make no sense! It is living like hell on fire!!!
  • Gary | 19 Oct 2016, 05:34 PM Agree 0
    I have been a motor technician for 35 years.
    In my last role, "juniors" of all ages, would show little to no respect for my calibre or wellbeing.
    Direct verbal abuse at times, but mainly backstabbing where they feel I wasn't pulling my weight.
    They could never fix what I could.
    The abuse eventually caused a permanent lower back injury, the reason for my resignation.
    I just had enough.

    Once I have recuperated, I will be looking for a completely different work career.
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