Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is characterised by persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety.

To constitute ‘bullying’ in the workplace the behaviour:

  • Must be repeated. A one-off remark or action will not constitute bullying, though may be another offence;
  • Must create a risk to health and safety;
  • Must do more than just make someone feel upset or undervalued at work; and
  • Must be at work.

Examples of bullying:

  • behaving aggressively, verbal abuse, abusive language, yelling and screaming
  • teasing or repeated practical jokes
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
  • excluding, isolating or marginalising from work-related events
  • unreasonable work demands, assigning meaningless tasks
  • failing to give credit for someone else’s work.

“At work”

Workplace bullying is not restricted to acts conducted on work grounds and includes social functions and staff interacting outside of work hours. There need only be a connection between the bullying and workplace for it to be considered at work.

What isn’t bullying

Staff management carried out in a reasonable way is not bullying. Therefore, a manager in their capacity as employer can make decisions about poor performance, take disciplinary action, and direct the way work is carried out without engaging in bullying.

Brodie’s Law

The case of Brodie Panlock put the spotlight on workplace bullying in Victoria after she took her own life following relentless bullying. Brodie’s Law makes serious bullying a criminal offence by extending the application of the stalking provisions in the Crimes Act 1958 to include behaviour that involves serious bullying. This crime is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Who is protected?

Full time, part time and casual staff, students gaining work experience, contractors or subcontractors and volunteers.

The Bully

It is important to remember anyone, given the right circumstance, has the capability to be a bully. It is commonly a senior member bullying a junior member of staff but it may also be between employees. Bullies can be nice people and good staff members.

The cost of bullying

Bullying is taxing for the victim but also for your workplace. For the victim it can impact their health and safety affect their ability to do their job. Injuries and illnesses may include anxiety, depression, social phobia and stress conditions.

For the workplace it can mean loss of productivity, increased staff turnover, absenteeism, and low morale.

In summary:

  • Workplace bullying has the capacity to harm individuals.
  • It is unlawful.
  • It can expose individuals to personal liability.
  • There is no excuse.
  • The implications can be Workcover Claims, OHS Breaches, Negligence breaches and criminal prosecutions. Bullying can also have a negative effect on the school and your reputation.
  • Every workplace should have a policy on bullying that is regularly made accessible to staff (for example emailed before social events as well as available on intranet). This policy should be updated as appropriate and be effectively implemented with regular training.
  • It is your responsibility to demonstrate that complaints are dealt with appropriately.
  • Be vigilant. A policy is only of value if it is consistently updated and utilised.

If you have a concern about bullying, or think its time to update your policies, talk to us.

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