People Smartz

Workplace Bullying Changes to Fair Work Act

Tony Perkins - Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Federal Government has introduced into parliament its second tranche of legislation amending the Fair Work Act. The changes to the Act include new responsibilities for the Fair Work Commission in regards to Workplace Bullying by introducing a new avenue for a employee to complain about Workplace Bullying. The bill allows a worker who believes they are being bullied at work to apply to the Commission for an order to stop the bullying.

The Bill defines bullying as a situation where a “worker” is subjected to repeated unreasonable behaviour at work by an individual or group of individuals and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. In these circumstances the worker may apply to the Commission for an order to stop the bullying. The Bill also specifies that “reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner” is not bullying.

Some important points to note:
  • The Commission must start dealing with an application within 14 days of the application.
  • The Commission may take steps  include contacting the employer or other involved parties to obtain information, conducting a conference or a formal hearing. 
  • The Commission may also refer the matter to a Work Health and Safety Regulator and disclose information it has obtained to such regulator.
As a result of its investigations the Commission may make any order it deems appropriate to prevent the employee being bullied.  This may include :
  • the individual or group of individuals involved stop the specified behaviour;
  • regular monitoring of behaviours by an employer;
  • compliance with an employer’s workplace bullying policy; 
  • the provision of information and additional support and training to workers; 
  • a review of the employer’s workplace bullying policy.
Failure to abide by the orders of the Commission is an offence and may result in a civil penalty offence.

What does this all mean?

As we have spoken about before, there has been a dramatic increase in bullying complaints recently. We have also seen increased activity by Workplace Safety regulators, particularly where complaints have been made.  This new avenue of complaint provides a new level of redress and will be very easily accessible.

Employers need to be aware that it continues to be critical that they:

  • quickly respond to bullying complaints;
  • have a Workplace Bullying policy in place;
  • have a grievance policy that allows effective complaint and issue handling;
  • have effective investigation procedures with staff adequately trained in handling investigations and complaints
  • be able to show that the appropriate policies and procedures have been followed; and
  • that effective education and awareness processes are in place
The above changes are still to pass through parliament, however now is the time to move if you do not already have policies and processes in place to deal with Workplace Bullying.

If you would like any further information regarding these changes, or any assistance with how to deal with a Workplace Bullying complaint, please feel free to Contact People Smartz

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