A new year brings change to the operation of all businesses.

Specifically, changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 in the area of bullying, will impact on all businesses.

The changes came into effect on 1 January 2014 and place workplace bullying within the domain of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).  This change means that the FWC can order remedies and impose penalties on the business for breaches.

ACAPMA Members are reminded that they can access resources and support from the association in preventing and dealing with bullying in their businesses.

The right to work free from bullying

All workers have the right to work in a safe working environment, and all businesses have a duty to ensure that their workers are protected from harm.  This includes the physical and mental harm that comes from bullying.

Bullying defined

Bullying is defined as the ‘repeated, unreasonable behaviour of one party that creates a risk to the health and safety of the victim’.  Bullying can be verbal, physical or even environmental.  Bullying has a negative impact on the safety of the victims as well as a destructive impact on the business.  Some bullying may include, escalate to or constitute crimes, such as assault.

Some practical examples of bullying include;

  • aggressive and intimidating conduct,
  • belittling or humiliating comments,
  • victimisation,
  • spreading malicious rumours,
  • practical jokes or initiation,
  • exclusion from work-related events, and
  • unreasonable work expectations.

Changes explained

With the changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 workers who feel they have been victims of bullying can now apply to the FWC to have a remedy applied.  The FWC can order a series of remedies including damages, reinstatement, cease orders and so on.

Businesses must appear before the Commission and are subject to the orders (civil breaches), however there is a commitment from the FWC to focus on cooperative outcomes “where mediation or conciliation in undertaken the emphasis will be on the resolution of issues so that constructive and cooperative relationships can resume.  Monetary settlements will not be promoted or recommended by the Commission” said FWC President, Justice Ian Ross.

Fair Work Act or Work Health and Safety Act?

The issuing of a bullying-related order by the FWC will not preclude the pursuit of the business by workplace safety regulators.  The duty to ensure the safety of workers remains enshrined within Workplace Safety Laws nationally.  In short failure to protect workers from, and appropriately respond to bullying claims, can result in the business being issued fines and remedial orders from both employment and safety regulators.

Resources and further information

The FWC has developed a series of guidance materials and forms for employees and employers in relation to stop bullying orders.  These resources and forms can be found on the FWC website.

Here to help

ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals are available to assist Members on 1300 160 270 or you can email elishar@acapma.com.au. ACAPMA Members can access resources and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members.

ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $770 per year for a single site, which represents great value with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts. Learn more about  ACAPMA membership here.