The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and
Employment has tabled its report into workplace bullying,
"Workplace bullying: we just want it to stop". The
Committee made a total of 23 recommendations, grouped into six
The definition of workplace bullying and assessing when it is
Legislative and regulatory changes;
Tools for prevention and resolution; and
Enforcement and remedies.
A changed definition of workplace bullying
A telling feature of the report's focus is the recommended
new definition of workplace bullying – "repeated,
unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of
workers, that creates a risk to health and safety".
This shifts the focus of workplace bullying from being an HR
issue and places it squarely in the work health and safety
category. Businesses and undertakings must then apply standard work
health and safety risk management principles (just as they do to
other hazards in the workplace) in managing workplace bullying, as
well as being able to manage complaints of bullying with the robust
tools that health and safety provides.
Recommended tools for dealing with workplace bullying
Many recommendations deal with tools for employers and employees
to recognise and manage bullying, tools for training, developing
workplace cultures and preventing and resolving complaints.
One of the more controversial recommendations (and the subject
of a dissenting report by Coalition MPs) is a recommendation that
the provisions of the draft code of practice on Managing the Risk
of Workplace Bullying not only be finalised as soon as possible but
that the code provisions be implemented as regulations in the model
Work Health and Safety Regulations. Of course, any regulatory
implementation will take some time given:
the growing number of voices saying that businesses are already
drowning under regulatory/compliance overkill; and
that it will take each of the States to implement the
regulatory reform to their regulations (with those States with
Coalition governments likely to back the dissenting report by
Other recommendations on workplace bullying
Other important recommendations include:
implementation of a national resolution service;
national arrangements that would allow individuals to access an
adjudication process. This national mediation or adjudication
process is also likely to take a great deal of Commonwealth/State
negotiation before any formal resolution/adjudication process can
be formalised; and
a national approach to adopting the Victorian legislative
changes under Brodie's Law.
Brodie's Law amended the offence of "stalking" in the
Victorian Crimes Act 1958 to "expressly include making
threats, using abusive or threatening words, performing abusive or
offensive acts, or acting in a way that could reasonably be
expected to cause the victim harm or self-harm". However, it
should be noted that there may be constitutional issues in making a
national or harmonised approach to such changes to State criminal
While these proposals may take some time to result in
legislative changes, it is clear that bullying and harassment
continue to be complex issues that are no longer seen as a just a
behavioural/HR problem. They cannot be resolved in isolation.
Business must ensure that they have a clear and definitive approach
to managing workplace bullying, centring their efforts and
processes within their work health and safety management systems as
well as their HR function. Bullying is a clear and present
workplace hazard that must be managed as such.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).