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Anti-Bullying


 

As you may know, a Bill was passed in June last year that introduced new anti-bullying measures that came into effect 1 January 2014. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an employee with reasonable belief that he or she has been bullied can report directly to the Fair Work Commission if they feel their bullying claim is not being dealt with appropriately by their employer. The Fair Work Commission then has the power to request that the individual or group stop the offending behaviour, that regular monitoring of employees by an employer occurs, that there is compliance with an employer’s workplace bullying policy and if not, then the employer’s must review their policy, and the provision of information, additional support and training to workers. 


To make sure you understand and can determine if and when bullying is occurring in your workplace, here is a checklist of how to prevent a bullying-free environment:
 
1. Have a clear definition of what bullying is

Bullying is a behaviour by a person in a work environment that is repeated, unreasonable, directed towards another person or group of persons from the same workplace that creates a health and safety risk to any one person, whether it be physical or psychological. There are both direct and indirect forms of bullying, for example:
 
Direct Indirect
  • Aggressive or intimidating behaviour e.g. verbal or physical abuse
  • Degrading or humiliating comments
  • Victimisation
  • Interfering with another person’s property or work
  • Deliberately or maliciously overloading a person with work or not providing enough work
  • Setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • Withholding vital information for effective work
  • Unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements e.g. leave

*it is important to note that an employee is considered ‘at work’ even if required by the employer to perform work off premises e.g. a work trip conducted outside normal business hours, lunchtime activities and working from home.
 
2. Implement a workplace policy that addresses bullying

An effective policy will include in depth definitions and examples of bullying behaviour, state your commitment to preventing bullying, set out the desired standard for appropriate behaviour, describe the reporting process and encourage staff to do so if experiencing bullying, and outlines the consequences for not complying with this policy.
 
3. Provide training to educate employees about the policy and appropriate workplace behaviour

Training your employees will provide them with a benchmark for appropriate workplace behaviour and allow for bullying to be more easily determined as all employees are aware of both what is considered bullying and the consequences of these actions, making their choice to bully another co-worker immediately deliberate and the intent malicious.
 
4. Conduct a bullying risk assessment

A risk assessment of what could happen if someone was exposed to the hazard (bullying) and the likelihood and seriousness of any injury, illness or damage that could arise, will allow you to not only assess the level of risk in your workplace, but then be able to control and eliminate them.

Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue. It can reduce workplace morale and operational efficiency, cause both physical and psychological harm to your employees, and carry large penalties if pursued (up to $500,000 or 5 years imprisonment for an individual and up to $3 Million for a corporate body). 
 

THE WARNING SIGNS


Below are many of the warning signs that bullying may be an issue in your workplace:
  1. Patterns of absenteeism or excessive sick leave
  2. High staff turnover
  3. A high number of grievances, injury reports or WorkCover claims
  4. A workplace culture that accepts and promotes a ‘tough guy’ or ‘harden up’ mentality toward interpersonal relationships
  5. Leadership styles that are particularly forceful, rude or aggressive
  6. Systems of work which are particularly uneven or unfair distribution of work, excessive intervention in a person’s work, excessive amount of work or provision of menial or tedious tasks or failure to provide any meaningful work
  7. Workplace relationships in which one or more people are excluded from a larger group or social activities

 
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