The Victorian Government recently introduced the Crime
Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 into State Parliament, which
will provide a maximum jail term of ten years for perpetrators
found guilty of workplace bullying.
The amendment is commonly being referred to as 'Brodie's
Law' after the 2006 death of Brodie Panlock. She committed
suicide at age 19 after being victimised by colleagues at a
café in Melbourne. We reported on the case
Winter Edition 2010 of The Workplace. The Bill will amend the
existing offence of stalking to cover the types of conduct and
behaviour that is often described as workplace bullying.
What will change?
While certain behaviours typical of being described as workplace
bullying may fall within the current definition of stalking, the
Bill expands the definition of what is considered stalking to
making threats to the victim
using abusive or offensive words to or in the presence of the
performing abusive or offensive acts in the presence of the
directing abusive or offensive acts towards the victim
acting in any other way that could reasonably be expected to
cause physical or mental harm to the victim, including self harm;
or to arouse apprehension or fear in the victim for his or her own
safety or that of any other person.
Further, a definition of mental harm is inserted and includes
psychological harm and suicidal thoughts. Attorney-General
Rob Clarke believes that the changes '...will make it clear
that the kind of suffering inflicted upon Brodie Panlock will be
treated as stalking and will be liable to a jail term'.
What does it mean for employers?
The amendments enhance the current protection afforded to
employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
2004 (Vic) (OHS Act), which requires employers to
provide a safe, risk free working environment, by criminalising the
more extreme examples of workplace bullying.
One of the issues will be the level of understanding about the
changes in workplaces. Employers should communicate the
changes to their employees and amend relevant policies and
procedures to alert employees to the potential for criminal
While the Bill is aimed at the individual as opposed to
employers generally, employers still have an obligation to provide
a safe workplace for all employees under the OHS Act.
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should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice.
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