By Key Business Advisors Human Resource Services

By Jessica Shanahan, Key Business Advisors HR Advisor

bullying in the workplaceAs you have likely heard by now, there are big changes coming to workplace laws in regards to workplace bullying. On 27 June 2013, the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 passed both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on 28 June, which means that it is now law. From 1 January 2014, the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 will come into effect. The changes will affect every employer, and it is imperative that you understand what the changes mean for your business.

The amendment 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.

So what do you as an employer need to do now in light of the changes to the workplace laws on bullying? Firstly, an understanding of what is considered workplace bullying is paramount. Section 789FD of the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 states:

  1. a worker is considered to have been bullied at work if:
    1. while the worker is at work in a constitutionally-covered business:
        1. an individual; or
        2. a group of individuals;

      repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker, or a group of workers of which the worker is a member; and

b.  that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

It is important to note that this definition does not apply to “reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.”

As the definition in the Act is quite broad, due care must be taken to prevent any instances of bullying and reduce the likelihood of complaints to the FWC. The best way to do this is to have a current Workplace Bullying Policy that is reviewed on a regular basis and issued to all employees. You must also have clear systems in place to address workplace bullying, and these systems must be communicated to all workers. Lastly, it is imperative to have a positive workplace culture, the benefits of which will impact the business as a whole.

If you want to find out more about exactly what is considered bullying at work and how the amendments to the Fair Work Act affect you and your business, join Key Business Advisors, MKS Harris and enableHR for an interactive breakfast session on 29 November 2013 from 7:30am to 9am at Riverside Kitchen and Events, Ascot Vale. Click here to register for this event and make sure you and your managers better understand the raft of legislation that covers bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment. You will also get practical tips on workplace Investigations, responding to bullying claims, as well as implementing appropriate policies and performance management systems.

For further details on the breakfast session, or if you need immediate assistance with all things HR, contact a KBA HR Advisor today on 1300 4 ADVICE.

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