By Jessica Shanahan
HR Advisor, Key Business Advisors
In case you haven’t heard yet or read our previous blog posts about it, the changes to workplace bullying laws have come into effect on 1 January 2014.
The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 allows a worker who is being bullied at work, or believes he/she is being bullied at work, the right to bypass his/her employer and apply directly to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying. The FWC will then have 14 days to action the complaint. Should the FWC determine that the worker has been bullied and there is a risk of this bullying continuing, the FWC has the power to make any order it deems appropriate to ensure the bullying does not continue, although no financial damages can be awarded. Should the orders be breached, however, the employer faces breach penalties of up to $10,200 for an individual, or $51,000 for a body corporate.
With the changes to workplace bullying laws, employers will likely see an increase in speculative claims of workplace bullying from employees who are under performance management or disciplinary action. So how can business owners and employers prevent unnecessary workplace bullying claims?
Do the following to prevent any instances of bullying and avoid unnecessary workplace bullying complaints to the FWC.
- Make sure that you have a current Workplace Bullying Policy. Have clear systems in place to address any instances of workplace bullying.
- Issue your Workplace Bullying Policy to all employees. Ensure that everyone in your business or company has a clear understanding of the policy and what is considered workplace bullying, and that management understands their obligations in dealing with any complaints and claims.
- Educate workers on what exactly is workplace bullying, as well as the impact that bullying can have on one’s wellbeing. Train your managers and staff to be aware of what bullying is and isn’t – for example, reasonable employee performance management and/or discussions about how to improve performance are NOT workplace bullying.
- Review and update your bullying and harassment policies and procedures regularly, and conduct ongoing awareness and prevention training for managers and staff.
- Foster a positive workplace culture, as its benefits impact the business as a whole.
- Should you witness any type of bullying or harassment, or should someone make a complaint, act immediately to address the situation. Seek advice early on so that things do not get out of control.
For more information about exactly what is considered workplace bullying and how the amendments to the Fair Work Act affect you and your business, contact the Key Business Advisors HR Team on 1300 4 ADVICE or via firstname.lastname@example.org.