Stop Workplace Bullying

Recent changes relating to Workplace Bullying took effect 1 January 2014 and it is important businesses understand what the changes mean and how they can address workplace bullying. We are seeing an increasing trend of workers compensation mental health and psychological related claims (which are 7-8 times more costly than physical claims) with the majority due to workplace bullying. Early intervention and appropriate internal processes can help minimise risk of such claims and therefore avoid significant premium increases. Management of these types of claims is critical and businesses need to take steps to minimise risk.

Below for your convenience is some key reference material relating to Workplace Bullying and the changes.

Please let us know if you would like to discuss.

Source: Fair Work Australia

Title: Fair Work Act – 1 January 2014 changes

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Source: Next Gen Teams 

Title: Bullying – The Dreaded Buzzword in the Workplace

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Bullying: The Dreaded Buzzword in the Workplace

A Report published by Safe Work Australia in April 2013 claims that mental stress related workers compensation claims cost Australian businesses $10 billion a year. A major reason of mental stress suffered by employees is workplace bullying.Despite having a high public profile, workplace bullying had no universal definition or specific legislation that all employers and employees could adhere to in dealing with perceived or actual bullying behaviour. This situation is now being addressed by the Federal Government with a two pronged approach.

The Legislative Reforms

• The Fair Work Act 2009 has been amended to provide workers with a new right to take their bullying complaints directly to the Fair Work Commission to seek an order to stop it. This amendment will be implemented from 1 January 2014.
• Safe Work Australia is finalising a Draft Bullying Code of Practice to define what is and is not bullying and how to deal with workplace bullying to remain compliant with the law.

How will Bullying be defined in the new Code?

The Draft Code defines workplace bullying as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”. It also defines the terms “repeated behaviour” and “unreasonable behaviour” as follows:
• Repeated behaviour refers to “the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time”; and
• Unreasonable behaviour is defined to mean “behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening”.
The Draft Code stresses that isolated incidents of unreasonable behaviour, reasonable management action, discrimination and harassment that is prohibited by other existing laws and low levels of workplace conflict are not workplace bullying.

How will the Fair Work Commission deal with a bullying complaint?

The Fair Work Commission will start dealing with the matter within 14 days. It can make final orders or refer the complaint to the relevant state work health and safety authority.

The Fair Work Commission is empowered to impose penalties of up to $33,000 depending on the severity of the complaint and the stress endured by the employer. It can also make an order requiring the employer to do, or not do, certain things to resolve the bullying complaint and prevent further bullying.

Three Practical Actions YOU can take to be on the safe side

No reasonable employer consciously wants to have a workplace culture dominated by bullying, harassment or discrimination. In order to establish the desired culture in the workplace, as well as to remain compliant with the new legislation, here are some practical tips to follow.

1. Having or updating your Bullying Policy – this is a ‘must’ for all employers irrespective of their size. If a bullying complaint is lodged with the FWC or becomes a Work Health and Safety Issue, any regulatory authority will check whether you have an adequate policy and appropriate procedures. Of course, just writing a policy is not enough – you need to ensure that all your managers and employees have access to it, they read and understood the policy as well as the consequences of breaching anything in it.

2. Conducting anti-bullying training for employees and managers: Training all managers and employees will equip them to understand the symptoms and effects of bullying as well as give them the practical tools to deal with it. It is also likely to be one of the first questions a regulatory authority or the FWC will ask you – it is always best to answer in the positive.

3. Conducting a Performance Management training for managers: Research shows that a significant number of bullying claims arise from managing poor performance. While the Draft Code (mentioned above) clarifies that reasonable actions taken to manage poor performance is not bullying, the managers should know how to manage poor performance in a reasonable manner. This will ensure that should a claim be lodged against your business, you are in a strong position to defend your actions.

What Can We do to assist you?

1. Develop and/or update a Bullying Policy or a Code of Conduct tailored for your workplace
2. Train your employees and managers in anti-bullying conduct
3. Run workshops to train your managers in Managing Poor Performance Effectively within legal guidelines