GRHSince 1 January 2014 the Fair Work Commission has had powers to make orders to prevent workplace bullying.

Workers who believe they are being bullied can apply to the Fair Work Commission for assistance.

A worker is deemed to have been bullied, while at work if:

  1. An individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards another worker, or a group of workers of which the worker is a member; and
  2. That behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

A worker is defined broadly as including employees, contractors, sub-contractors, outworkers, apprentices or trainees and work experience students. The Fair Work Act does not apply to volunteers and members of the Australian Defence Force.

Whilst the amendments to legislation is relatively new, it is worth considering that past acts of bullying can be considered by the Fair Work Commission. In an Application by Kathleen McInnes [2014] FWCFB 1440, a respondent raised a jurisdictional objection to an Application on the basis that the Fair Work Commission should only consider bullying conduct after 1 January 2014.  In this case, the Applicant had alleged that she had been bullied over a six-year period between 2007 and 2013.

The Fair Work Commission rejected the Respondent’s jurisdictional objection stating that past behaviour may be taken into account because the legislation is ‘basing future action on past events, rather than changing past rights and obligations’.

The type of Orders that the Fair Work Commission can make can include but are not limited to, ordering:

  • a person not to contact the worker alone;
  • an employer to regularly monitor workplace behaviour;
  • that certain behaviour stop;
  • that the employer provide information, support and training to workers; and
  • that the employer review its workplace bullying policy.

In this regard, orders can be made against the employer, co-workers and/or visitors to the workplace. Contravention of a Fair Work Commission order can result in a fine of up to $10,200 against the offending party.

These amendments to the Fair Work Act has significantly increased an employer’s exposure to claims in respect to bullying.

Everingham Solomons encourages businesses to be proactive in their approach to potential claims, by ensuring that their code of conduct, anti-bullying policy, risk management and investigation and claims process is relevant and up-to-date.

Everingham Solomons has the expertise to review policies and procedures regarding workplace behaviour and the complaint processes, because Helping You is Our Business.

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