Despite everyone having the right to feel safe at work, there are unfortunately many instances of bullying still occurring in the workplace. Workplace Bullying affects workers at all levels of seniority – ranging from work experience students and interns, to senior management. Read on to find out more about your rights, what actions you can take and what victims of Workplace Bullying are entitled to.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace Bullying occurs when:
- A worker is acted unreasonably towards by another worker or group of workers. What is considered unreasonable behaviour is based on what a reasonable person may perceive as unreasonable in the circumstances.
- The unreasonable behaviour occurs repeatedly over time.
A single instance of unreasonable behaviour is not enough to constitute workplace bullying.
- These actions create a risk to the worker’s health and safety.
Examples of Workplace Bullying
Workplace Bullying can occur through many different forums, such as face-to-face, over the phone, over email or over social media.
Workplace Bullying may include behaviours such as:
- Exclusion from workplace activities and events
- Making impossible or unreasonable work demands
- Teasing, practical jokes or hazing rituals
- Spreading of rumours, gossip or innuendo
- Withholding important information or tools required for work performance
- Intimidating or aggressive conduct
What is NOT Workplace Bullying?
The following are not considered to be Workplace Bullying:
- Reasonable management action undertaken in a reasonable way.
Any actions undertaken by management which carried out in a lawful and reasonable manner does not constitute Workplace Bullying. This may include any feedback, transferral, demotion, dismissal, or disciplinary action based on a valid and reasonable basis.
- Discrimination or sexual harassment
Any discrimination or sexual harassment prevalent in the workplace is unlawful, and are subject to anti-discrimination, equal employment opportunity, workplace relations and human rights laws.
- Workplace conflict
It is expected that in any workplace, there will be disagreements or a difference of opinions between workers. Without this escalating to repeated unreasonable behaviour which creates a risk to an worker’s health and safety, this is not regarded as Workplace Bullying.
What actions can I take if I am a victim of Workplace Bullying?
Workers should keep a record of any bullying incidents that have occurred. It is best to take note of details such as the date, time, place and persons involved to help substantiate any of your claims.
Where possible, workers should try to firstly resolve any bullying issues at the workplace. Any occurrences of bullying should be brought to the attention of your employer, either by speaking with your manager, health and safety representative, or the human resources department.
If you feel that the matter has not been adequately handled by your employer, there are external avenues to dealing with Workplace Bullying. These include:
Fair Work Commission (FWC)
A victim of Workplace Bullying may apply for the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to issue an order for the bullying to stop. In doing so, the FWC will launch an investigation and, if bullying is found, an order may be ruled. An order may include requiring an individual or group to stop any bullying, monitoring of the workplace, or a review of the employer’s existing Workplace Bullying policy. Any failure to comply with an order may result in penalties imposed by the Courts.
The FWC also deals with unfair dismissal claims. You may be eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim if, as a result of Workplace Bullying, your employment has been unreasonably terminated.
The FWC is unable to award any work-related compensation. Therefore, if you are seeking compensation, the best avenues for doing so are to file either a Workers’ Compensation claim or a Negligence claim.
Workers’ Compensation claim
If, as a result of Workplace Bullying, you have suffered an injury, you may be entitled to make a Workers’ Compensation Claim. The most common injury from bullying is a psychological injury. Workers’ Compensation has no fault requirement, therefore you are only required to prove that your injury occurred as a result of the course of your employment, and that the employment was a substantial cause of the psychological injury. If successful, you may receive compensation for any lost earnings and medical expenses.
Under the Common Law, employers owes their employees a duty of care. This duty of care involves taking reasonable care for their employees’ safety or, more specifically in the context of Workplace Bullying, taking reasonable care to avoid the risk that an employee will suffer a psychiatric injury as a result of their employment. If they have breached this duty of care, you may entitled to damages for loss of earnings, and for pain and suffering.