With the workplace bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act having now been in place for over 12 months, it’s timely to reflect on the changes, how they are working in practice and the associated costs and responsibilities.
Under the legislation:
- bullying at work is deemed to occur when “an individual or group repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or group AND the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety”. Bullying does not include one-off instances of insensitivity or rudeness, or reasonable management activities carried out in a reasonable manner
- a worker who believes that they have been bullied, and anticipates that the bullying will continue, can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying
- “Worker” has a broad definition and includes, for example, employees, contractors and subcontractors, an employee of a labour hire company, apprentices, trainees, students gaining work experience and volunteers
- the Fair Work Commission is required to start to deal with an application for an order to stop the bullying within 14 days of it being received
- courts can impose significant penalties on individuals and/or businesses that fail to comply with an order to stop the bullying
- the Commission can also refer the matter to Work Health and Safety regulators which could ultimately result in the imposition of fines or a prosecution for a breach of WHS laws.