FWC puts workplace bullies in their sights

by Cameron Edmond04 Jun 2013

Squashing workplace bullying is something any HR manager can get behind. Whilst legislative changes, due to commence on 1 July, will see the FWC tackling the bullying problem, waiting around might get you caught in the crossfire.

According to recent reports from Holding Redlich, among the proposed amendments to The Fair Work Act are alterations to the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) power to intervene in cases of workplace bullying. Additionally, FWC will receive a $5m increase yearly for anti-bullying orders. These changes are set to be implemented on 1 July.

Bullying is defined in the legislation as unreasonable behaviour towards a worker or group which creates a risk to health and safety; Safe Work Australia has expanded this to include online comments, news.com.au reports.

Under the changes, employees feeling victimised can report the bullying to the FWC. From here, FWC will decide on proceedings, which could include a mediation or hearing between the parties.

If the FWC sees a risk in bullying continuing after a hearing, they have the capacity to order the bullying to stop. They may also order for the employer to monitor those involved and review their bullying policies for any issues with compliance. If the orders are not complied with, penalties and additional, remedial orders will be issued.

The legislation states actions that comply with health and safety laws are permitted, meaning workplaces that are on the level are unlikely to be affected. However, a policy review is still worth your while.

“When the law commences operation in July it is reasonable to expect that employers will face a very real risk of any matter being brought before the FWC then being referred to the safety regulator for investigation,” Michael Selinger, workplace relations partner at Holding Redlich, warned.

For HR professionals, Holding Redlich has recommended undertaking a review of current procedures, and ensuring your workers are complying with them. This will not only avoid trouble with the FWC but, more importantly, will ensure workplace bullying hasn’t gone on undetected.


  • by RivercityIR 5/06/2013 7:28:47 AM

    Simple fact is that if HR dealt with bullies and bullying situations better than such steps would not be needed. FWC is overworked and understaffed now so this new responsibility will put a considerable drain on their already stretched resources.

  • by Bernie Althofer 5/06/2013 3:08:38 PM

    Workplace bullying has been discussed in a range of online forums over a period of time. It seems that issues such as leadership and management, and the role of leaders and managers, workplace culture (and sub cultures), change management and whether or not organisations are 'change ready' continue to be topics of debate and discussion.

    Creating safer workplaces that allow those involved in a workplace bullying incident to address all aspects will depend on how the previously mentioned issues are viewed and addressed in organisations. In addition, the provision of training, not just on the new legislation and remedial options, but also training that provides line managers and supervisors with the knowledge, skills and abilities to identity, prevent and address all forms of negative workplace behaviours e.g. bullying is essential.

    As has been indicated in a number of forums, introducing a 'new' policy or approach towards workplace bullying might not be as successful as intended, if other related systems and processes are not also addressed.

    Expecting that HR should deal with bullies and bullying situations only increases their workloads and may only add to the problem. Generating change driven by and supported at the top, and cascaded down through organisations should be the focus so that all employees (irrespective of their level) can play their part in preventing and detecting bullying.

    In the ideal world, bullying cases should not be reaching FWC or other regulatory bodies. However, it appears that in some cases, this might the last resort for some employees. Every organisation will feel increased pressure over a period of time as individuals start to understand how FWC might be used.

    Organisations should have by now conducted a review or audit to determined their level of 'readiness' to cope with a possible influx of actions involving FWC.

    It might not be in anyone's best interest to sit back and wait until after a claim is made. Taking proactive and preemptive action to identify any possible risk exposures should have commenced some time ago given the importance of and the impact that workplace bullying has across organisations.

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