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Bullying at work is a serious matter and it is important to understand what it is and how to stop it. Bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour between a worker and a manager or between co-workers, which creates a risk to their health and safety.

Bullying includes:

  • being aggressive, intimidating or humiliating
  • bad language or rudeness
  • teasing, practical jokes or spreading rumours
  • excluding from team activities
  • unreasonable expectations of their work, whether too much, too little or withholding information they need to do it

If bullying happens only once and relates to sex, age, disability or race, it may breach anti-discrimination laws.

What to do about it.

As an employer, you have to take steps to prevent or minimise the risks of bullying and harassment at work. You need to have a clear bullying and harassment policy in place and some businesses may offer bullying and harassment training regularly so workers can understand the policy.

Remember bullying does not include genuine disciplinary procedures, proper performance management, giving constructive feedback, or directing how employees do their work.

If you face a claim.

Even if you are well prepared, you may still face a claim of workplace bullying. Since January 2014, workers can lodge a claim with the Fair Work Commission to stop ongoing bullying at their workplace (unless it is a sole trader or partnership). There is no time limit for them to apply as long as they still work there.

The Commission has 14 days to deal with the application and asks you, the employer, to respond in seven days. The Commission then holds a hearing to decide whether the person is being bullied and whether there is a risk it will continue.

The Commission may ask the bully to stop the bullying behaviour or review your company’s bullying policy. It cannot issue penalties or award compensation, but your record of bullying may re-emerge in later WHS or workers compensation claims if you don’t comply with its order.

Workplace bullying has never been acceptable under WHS legislation, but this is the first time the Commission has become involved. Employees can also complain to the state work health and safety (WHS) regulator, or bring it up as part of other types of claim.

Employsure are experts in helping you manage every aspect of bullying in the workplace. For peace of mind, please call our 24 hour Advice Line now on 1300 651 415.

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