Saturday was not a day of rest for Workplace Relations
Minister Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who
announced that the government was planning a parliamentary inquiry
into the causes and extent of workplace bullying. This follows the
Productivity Commission finding that workplace bullying is costing
Australian businesses up to $36 billion per annum.
Workplace bullying has increasingly been attracting headlines,
and the number of complaints littering HR Managers' desks
Last year, we saw the introduction of "Brodie's
law" in Victoria to criminalize conduct related to
workplace bullying. This followed an extreme instance of workplace
bullying, which ultimately led the young victim to take her own
As part of OH&S harmonisation, a draft Code of Practice for
Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying has been released
for comment. Although Codes of Practice have no statutory force,
under the new regime, application of a Code will be admissible as
evidence of compliance with an obligation.
Reports also suggest that alleged psychological harm from
workplace bullying is becoming a common basis for a
workers' compensation claim.
Now it appears that the federal government is planning to tackle
the issue head on. As part of the review - due to completed by 30
November 2012 - the government is apparently considering whether
further legislation is warranted, including whether the Victorian
approach should be rolled out on a national level.
Whether the inquiry will recommend a compensation model similar
to that which currently exists for unlawful discrimination, or
criminalisation of conduct like in Victoria, remains to be seen.
Either way, the launch of the inquiry serves as a timely reminder
that businesses should ensure they have policies and procedures for
addressing workplace bullying.
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