Is your business prepared?

The Government’s decision to allow employees to take complaints of bullying to the Fair Work Commission is a game change for business and people management.

Bullying behaviour is currently regulated in Victoria by an employers’ occupational health and safety duty to maintain a safe working environment.  Employers also have a duty of care to ensure their employees’ health and wellbeing.

The “Workplace bullying – we just want it to stop” report commissioned by the House of Representatives in 2012 states that the high prevalence of bullying in the workplace is not only causing harm to individuals but is costing the employer and the economy tens of thousands of dollars per bullied employee per year.

Some of the many impacts include:

  • psychological injuries;
  • loss of productivity;
  • absences from work;
  • deceased job satisfaction and staff retention; and
  • lower levels of commitment.

The new year sees the introduction of the anti-bullying measure under the Fair Work Act 2009 which is targeted legislative intervention with respect to this workplace issue.

The new broad definition of bullying is “repeated unreasonable behavior that creates risk to health and safety”.  Examples of acts that may constitute bullying include:

  • Abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  • Undue criticism
  • Excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal work activities
  • Withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  • Unreasonably overloading a person with work or not providing enough work
  • Setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • Setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • Denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources such that it has a detriment to the worker
  • Spreading misinformation or malicious rumors
  • Changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to the detriment of a worker or workers; and
  • Unreasonable treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements such as leave or training.

This new regime will apply to workers not just employees therefore it will extend to contractors, apprentices and trainees, work experience students as well as volunteers.  The aggrieved worker may apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying.  The Commission is then required to investigate the allegations, conduct a conference or hold a hearing.

Employers are encouraged to:

  • familiarise themselves with the new laws; and
  •  review and update their bullying policies before the new year.

The Fair Work Commission’s Case Management Model and anti-bullying Benchbook is now available on its website may assist employers to understand these changes.

Robertson Hyetts Solicitors is a co-convenor of the Bendigo Regional HR Network and recently hosted a seminar to HR professionals and management at the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre.  Andrew Pickles presented on The New Anti-Bullying Code of Practice and the importance of a pro active approach in Employment Law matters.

For more information on Employment Law matters contact: Andrew Pickles, Solicitor, Robertson Hyetts Solicitors on 03 5434 6666, email  or make an appointment to discuss your specific Employment Law requirements.