New laws prohibiting workplace bullying are now in force.
Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) define
bullying, harassment or victimisation as "repeated,
unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or a group of
workers that creates a risk to health and safety."
Claims of bullying can be lodged by:
work experience students.
Allegations of bullying can be referred to the Fair Work
Commission. This can deal with the complaint by:
referring the matter to the relevant State's work health
and safety regulator; or
making orders to deal with the complaint on a final basis.
The Fair Work Commission can impose on employers penalties of up
to $30,000 and make orders to resolve the complaint and prevent
An employee wishing to lodge a complaint may be encouraged by
the new laws to lodge their complaint with the Fair Work Commission
rather than going through the employer's internal processes.
The Fair Work Commission is a "no costs" jurisdiction so
that, even if the complainant is unsuccessful, the employer remains
liable for its own costs of defending itself before the
A defence to an employer accused of bullying is that the
employer's actions constituted "reasonable management
action carried out in a reasonable manner." Employers should
ensure that performance reviews and management of staff are handled
in a way to guard against allegations of bullying and provide a
defence in the event of a complaint.
prepare and implement an effective workplace bullying policy
which includes a definition of "workplace bullying" and a
statement that workplace bullying is unlawful
ensure that your complaints handling process includes a
procedure for dealing with bullying complaints
make clear to employees the consequences for those who have
engaged in bullying and those who have experienced bullying
ensure that your performance management processes are fair and
reasonable and are exercised in a fair and reasonable manner.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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