What you need to know about anti-bullying laws

by Cameron Edmond30 Jan 2014
Australian employers sit in the eye of the storm regarding the new anti-bullying laws. While the new laws have come into place, there are still several weeks before the FWC will accept submissions based on the law.

While many HR professionals will have already commenced any necessary training and amendments to their anti-bullying policies, it is important to ensure a full understand of the definitions of the law, and how the FWC will handle cases.

Peter Punch, partner at Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers, describes the law in short as the FWC having power to deal with an application by a worker for orders to stop bullying of the applicant in the workplace by an individual or a group of persons.

“Worker” is defined as any person performing work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking – this therefore includes casual workers, trainees, temps, etc. – Not just full-time employees.

“Bullying” is repeated and unreasonable behaviour towards a worker that causes a risk to health and safety. It does not include Reasonable Management carried out in a reasonable manner.

“Reasonable Management” is described by Kemp Strang Lawyers (via Mondaq) as performance appraisals, ongoing meetings to address underperformance, counselling or disciplining a worker for misconduct, investigating alleged misconduct or refusing an employee permission to return to work due to a medical condition.

In terms of orders that the Commission can take, the employer of the worker will be party to any bullying claim, as will the alleged bullies, and will be subject to any orders made by the Commission, which may include:
  • An individual or group to stop the behaviour
  • Regular monitoring of behaviour by employer.
  • Compliance with an employer’s policy.
  • Provision of workers information.
  • Support and training or review of employer’s policy.
HR professionals who are still unsure of what the new provisions will mean to them would do well to investigate the current climate in their organisation regarding bullying, and ensure all policies have been reviewed. For further information, see HC’s coverage of the laws before their introduction:

Last call for anti-bullying compliance

Awareness of bullying on the rise

For further information, HC encourages readers to check out the FWC’s own coverage of the anti-bullying laws here.

How are you dealing with bullying in the workplace, and have you had to make any chances following the new laws’ introduction?


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