Back in March 2013 I wrote about the Proposed Bullying in the Workplace Laws. Now that these are in place it is a good time to bring them back into topic. I have seen an increase across a couple of my clients when it has come to claims of workplace bullying. I have successfully managed to keep these complaints informal and resolved internally but the putting out of fires in this way will not work for all organisations.

 

I came across this great Video that really sets out clear as day what is Workplace Bullying – My suggestion is that everyone should watch it

Sourced from www.workplaceinfo.com.au 19 March 2013Proposed new bullying in the workplace laws will potentially give employees ‚ ≤another avenue for complaint’, a leading employers’ organisation has warned. – Steve Cartwright, CEO of the New South Wales Business Chamber, said the new laws could affect employers’ prerogative ‚ ≤to run its business in a lawful and reasonable way’.

He said employers should be paying attention to legislation the Federal Government is planning to introduce shortly concerning a fast track for workers to bring complaints about workplace bullying to the Fair Work Commission.

It is proposed that matters be listed within 14 days of the complaint being made and the Commission will have the power to issue orders against the employer relating to the complaint,’ Cartwright said.

 The Fair Work Act 2009 will be amended to provide for civil penalties against employers who breach the new law of up to $33,000. Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has said the laws would be introduced in March.
Compensation claim
Cartwright said bullying complaints frequently form part of an employee’s workers compensation claim or can give rise to discrimination complaints. ‚ ≤The proposed new laws will potentially give employees another or further avenue for complaint,’ he said.
Cartwright said that for the first time the new law would define ‚ ≤bullying’ with the likely definition being that contained in the Safe Work Australia draft Code of Conduct Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying: ‚ ≤repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’. He said he expected there would be some debate about the meaning of ‚ ≤unreasonable’ and ‚ ≤risk’.
Cartwright said that while the new law would not cover reasonable management practices, including performance management, it is is likely that the Commission will have the power to review and critically judge HR policies and practises dealing with many aspects of the workplace relationship such as performance reviews, bullying complaints, performance criteria, KPIs, job descriptions and grievance procedures.

Concern

  • There is a concern that complaints will be lodged alleging bullying when performance issues arise or are the subject of planned meetings between the employee and his or her supervisor in an attempt to halt or delay the performance management or planned review,’ he said.
  • The Minister’s announcements suggest that the new bullying law will allow an employee to ask the Commission to interfere with an employer’s prerogative to run its business in a lawful and reasonable way, including the right to performance manage employees or apply practises applicable to that management.’
  • This could mean that a form of injunction will be applied which will stop the performance management of the complainant until the bullying allegations have been heard and determined.’

Reputational damage

  • The Commission is also likely to have power to publish its orders to assist in preventing further bullying. This clearly has the potential to cause reputational damage and is something employers would be striving to avoid.’
  • Cartwright said it was not clear yet whether a reverse onus of proof would be involved, nor whether employers could recover costs for a defence against frivolous or vexatious claims.
  • An additional problem, as we see it, is that an employee could avoid a workplace policy dealing with bullying and internal HR processes associated with an official complaint and subsequent investigation by lodging an application before the Commission seeking the Commission’s involvement and intervention,’ he said.

Undesired effect

This intervention could have the undesired effect of rendering that policy or process obsolete while the matter is within the Commission’s jurisdiction.’ Cartwright urged employers to review their bullying, harassment and victimisation policies to ensure they are current and being followed.

If you have not yet conducted any training in this area in the last 12 months, then it’s time to do some refresher training,’

Most of all, you need to encourage a culture where bullying is not tolerated and if it does occur, that you are intervening early so your employees do not feel the need to run off to the Fair Work Commission.’