From 1 January 2014, claims of workplace bullying may now be heard by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), with the Commission being obliged to begin dealing with the matter within 14 days of receiving the claim.
In response to claims and with few exceptions, the Commission may make any orders it considers appropriate to stop the bullying. These orders, in practical terms, may amount to an interim order for bullying behaviour to cease or a referral to an external body like WorkSafe. Before making an order however, the Commission must be satisfied that the worker would otherwise continue to be bullied.
The legislative changes apply nationally, with the provision extending to contractors, labour hire personnel and persons engaged in other workplace arrangements.
Bullying poses a significant risk to individual workers and companies. In particular, it is essential that employers are aware of the changes and they have procedures, policies and training in place to assist their officers and workers in mitigating or dealing with a complaint of workplace bullying under the new laws.
Additionally, businesses should work to understand and promote:
- The new bullying provisions under the Fair Work Act Amendment Bill 2013
- The differences between bullying and reasonable employee management
- A clear policy outlining appropriate workplace behaviour
- Employee education targeting the procedures used to lodge and respond to allegations
- Risk mitigation strategies that address bullying and bullying culture in the workplace.