Twelve major employers in New South Wales are trialling a new scheme which aims to attack the bullying endemic plaguing high schools – bullies are warned that their schoolyard behaviour will follow them right into the workforce.
ClubsNSW launched the radical BullyCheck scheme last week, and employers that sign on will reject job applications from people aged 17-22 who engaged in bullying, cyber stalking, harassment or threatening behaviour at school. Participating employers will ask job applicants to consent to a reference check from their current or former high school and will not be hired if they fail the character test.
While the initiative has been welcomed by anti-bullying campaigners, some commentators have raised concerns over a minefield of potential issues. For example, some have pointed to the possibility of excluding applicants who have been wrongly accused of bullying. Others have questioned whether it would be fair to reject a person of 22 who has matured and is remorseful of their behaviour at school.
Yet Gaming and Racing Minister George Souris stood by BullyCheck, hailing it as a fantastic initiative. “Bullying both at school and in the workplace has a costly and devastating effect on victims and the community at large and I congratulate ClubsNSW on helping to fight this scourge,” he said.
ClubsNSW said the program would be adopted by clubs across the state by next year. “The message is simple – if you bully then you are risking your own career prospects,” chief executive Anthony Ball said. Forums will be held in schools to advise kids that aggressive behaviour would not be looked on kindly, and a record of bullying could severely harm their future career prospects. “If students have engaged in serious bullying, cyber stalking or threatening behaviour clubs will not hesitate to reject their job application,” Ball commented. If a student voluntarily raises their bullying history and demonstrates remorse and a high level of community service then their application for a job may be considered on its merits, ClubsNSW said.
To protect privacy, no personal documents will be released and jobseekers will not be told why their application was refused. Schools in the program must agree to provide information confidentially to employers about a job applicant’s history.
The rollout of the scheme follows a number of high-profile bullying incidents where teenage victims have been driven to suicide, and schools have largely copped the brunt of blame.