Most of us think of the boss when we hear stories of workplace
bullying. They are the ones with the power, the ones with the
authority to fire you, the ones in charge of the way things are
Statistics tend to back this up. Studies have found 72 per cent
of bullies were bosses, and that they mostly have lower ranked
mini-bullies who work with the boss to carry out the bullying. A
survey by the Know Bull group found half of employers take no
action when a workplace bullying claim is made.
The economic and social cost of bullying in the workplace in the
form of absenteeism, loss of productivity and legal costs has been
put at up to $36 billion a year by The Australian Human Rights
Commission.Research shows the impact of one serial bully in a
workplace can reduce performance of their victims by half, and
other workers by a third. Safe Work Australia found bullying in
Australian workplaces is substantially higher than international
rates. Occupational Health News reported that 42 per cent of men
reported being sworn or yelled at in the workplace, 20 per cent of
workers were humiliated in front of others, 20 per cent experienced
discomfort due to sexual jokes and 7 per cent of women experienced
unwanted sexual advances. More than one in ten women experienced
unfair treatment due to gender.
WorkSafe research shows that although most workplaces have
anti-bullying policies, the rate of bullying in the workforce has
risen from 14 per cent to 15 per cent. The average cost for a
stress claim is $41,186 compared to $23,441 for a physical injury
Nathan Luke, employment law specialist at Stacks Law Firm, says
employers need to ensure they have effective anti-bullying measures
in place and accessible avenues for concerned workers to complain.
Victims of bullying also need to know their legal rights and get
expert legal advice on the best course to take for their particular
Leaving the bullying to last and fester without taking action by
both the victim and the employer can end in much higher costs -
both financially and emotionally. Earlier this month a Victorian
teacher was paid $770,000 in damages after suffering a major
breakdown following years of being bullied and threatened by his
students, one even using a home-made flamethrower.For six years the
teacher was assigned the worst and most unruly students without
break. The court found the department and the school had breached
its duty by not removing the teacher from the challenging
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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.
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