Bullying claim payout a timely reminder

by Cameron Edmond23 Jul 2013

The changes to the Fair Work Act (FWA) introduced to crack down on bullying in the workplace have now been passed by parliament. However, the start date has been moved from 1 July 2013 to 1 January 2014, Marque Lawyers reported.

The extra six months will allow the Fair Work Commission (FWC) more time to prepare for the influx of submissions they are likely to receive when the changes come into play. It also gives organisations a generous warning to ensure their workplace is not fostering a culture of bullying.

The need for tighter regulation of bullying in some organisations becomes apparent in cases such as last month’s ruling on a sales assistant being violently abused by her boss over the course of five years.

Wendy Swan, a sales assistant at Legibook, began making complaints about the hostility, rudeness and often violent behaviour of her boss, Kriston Cowell, as early as 2003, The Herald Sun reported.

With no action taken to stop the harassment, a formal complaint was made by Swan in 2005, which also saw no resolution. She left Legibook in 2007, and hasn’t worked since.

A civil action hearing by the Supreme Court has awarded Swan close to $600,000, finding she is unlikely to work again, and has developed anxiety and depression due to her treatment.

The failure of Swan’s employer to ensure her safety at work resulted in the hefty pay-out, and with these FWA changes now six months away, organisations should review their own anti-bullying initiatives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all workers.

Further reading:

Walking the fine line between reasonable performance management and bullying

FWC puts workplace bullies in their sights

                                                                                                                                             

COMMENTS

  • by Bernie Althofer 26/07/2013 11:07:18 AM

    It is important for organisations to note that the payout is only one indicator of the costs involved in a workplace bullying case.

    The person making the claim can incur costs through time off work, medical and legal expenses, counselling etc.

    The alleged bully can incur costs through medical and legal expenses, as they defend the claim.

    Organisations can incur costs through lost productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, investigation costs, administrative and processing costs, negative media coverage, damage to individual and organisational reputation, etc.

    It seems that organisations need to have a system or process in place to document any and all related costs.

    It also seems that January 2014 is not that far away, so it seems now is appropriate time to review current policies and procedures, along with systems and processes used to maintain currency of knowledge across all levels of the organisation e.g. training etc

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