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Legal experts: Bullies in their midst - Employers' obligations and risks

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HC Online | 29 Sep 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Peter Doughman explores the ramifications of small but crucial amendments to the Victorian Crimes Act 1958, following the tragic suicide of a Victorian employee who had been the victim of systemic workplace bullying.
  • Bernie Althofer | 30 Sep 2011, 11:10 AM Agree 0
    Workplace bullying is not something that most workers expect that they will be directly or indirectly involved in when they go to work. For this reason, workers can be under prepared for what is involved. A victim/target may be subjected to bullying behaviours for some period of time before they realise that they have been targeted. By the time they seek advice on resolution options, they may have 'forgotten' some of the finer details regarding the behaviours. The alleged bully may have continued on using their 'bullying' behaviours unaware of the reaction and consequences, particularly if it has been 'unintentional' caused through workplace pressures. The organisation may be 'ignorant' or unaware of the behaviours due to lack of data and the non reporting of the behaviours when they initially commence.
    Whilst prosecution and litigation are options available to workers and to organisations, in some cases, workers take no action when they find out what is actually involved physically, psychologically and financially.
    Whilst many organisations in this day and age have well defined policies and procedures in relation to workers compensation, work health and safety, employment conditions, there may be cases where there is different approaches are taken in relation to risk assessments. Workplace environments that 'dictate' what are and what are not risks or hazards may in fact result in issues such as workplace bullying being driven underground. In some online discussions, bullying has been referred to as the dragon. Just as the changes have occurred in Victoria and changes are occurring across Australia in relation to the harmonisation of work health and safety laws, organisations should be reviewing currently policies and procedures, not just in relation to workplace bullying, but also in relation to any connected policies or procedures.
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