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Don’t be beaten by workplace bullying

  • Adroit Insurance and Risk
  • June 1, 2015

New anti-bullying laws may not yet have resulted in the claims influx some insurance companies were anticipating, but there’s no doubt they could still leave the unprepared business owner in a bit of strife.

Starting last year, employees who believe they are being bullied at work now have the right to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to prevent the behaviour. The commission then seeks submissions from the company and individuals concerned before deciding whether mediation or a formal hearing is the best way to resolve the issue.

If an order is issued, the firm and people bound by it must comply or face hefty court penalties of more than $50,000.

The order can make a number of requirements, including making individuals stop behaving a certain way, demanding behaviour monitoring, additional training, or the review of the company’s anti-bullying policies.

On top of the FWC powers, renewed focus on the issue could also encourage general protection or unfair dismissal claims. Victims of bullying can also claim for a psychological injury under workers’ compensation laws. All in all, it pays to be prepared.

To help prevent workplace bullying negatively affecting your business, you need to understand how bullying is defined. According to the FWC, bullying at work occurs when a person “behaves unreasonably” towards another. To be considered bullying, the behaviour must be repeated and must create a risk to health and safety. Intimidating conduct, humiliating comments, spreading of rumours, teasing, practical jokes, exclusion from events and unreasonable work expectations can all fall under the umbrella of bullying.

Bullying does not, however, include reasonable management action. This includes performance management, disciplinary action for misconduct, or informing an employee about unsatisfactory work.

So how can you stop bullying happening in your business? Think about whether you have an effective policy about bullying in your workplace, and whether your managers have had sufficient management training. Staff should also be trained in appropriate workplace behaviour. Also consider whether you have satisfactory employee monitoring in place, and a process for managing complaints. It’s important to deal with grievances appropriately and quickly, as festering issues are more likely to be referred to the FWC – and one application may encourage others.

For small businesses in particular, the process of dealing with an FWC application can be expensive, time-consuming and distracting, as well as potentially devastating for team morale.

Get in touch with us to make sure you have an effective and up-to-date risk management strategy in place, as well as the right level of cover incase your business is affected by workplace bullying.

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