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Bullying in the workplace

Bullying in the workplace

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace bullying has been identified as an important risk and hazard across all the federal jurisdictions. However, if bullying and other workplace conflict is identified and dealt with early the situation can be addressed and resolved, preventing bullying from becoming acceptable behaviour which can result in workplace injury.

Risk

Bullying in the workplace can cause significant psychosocial risk to workers who experience or witnesses such behaviour. Psychosocial risks may arise from the poor management of risk factors such as work design, lack of implementing change management strategies, high/inappropriate job demands or lack of control over work. Psychosocial risks are one of the main causes of workplace stress leading to a deterioration of a workers' mental health. The presence of bullying in the workplace can be a result of poor workplace culture supported by an environment which allows such behaviour to occur. Poor people management skills and lack of supportive leadership can also add to the stress. The effects of workplace bullying on a worker vary according to the nature of the bullying behaviour, but may include:

  • Stress, anxiety or sleep disturbance
  • Mental health issues such as depression
  • Reduced quality of family and home life
  • Increased absenteeism and staff turnover
  • Reduced work performance

Remedy

Everyone at the workplace has a duty in relation to stopping and/or intervening when they see workplace bullying occurring. All workers can help to ensure that bullying behaviours do not occur.

A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has the primary duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and that other persons at the workplace are not put at risk from the work that is carried out. 'Health' is defined in the WHS Act as both physical and psychological health.

PCBUs should ensure the organisation has systems, policies and procedures in place to prevent bullying and effectively respond to allegations that may arise, in order to provide a safe and healthy workplace and meet their duties under the WHS Act. The risk of workplace bullying can be eliminated or minimised by creating a work environment where everyone treats each other with dignity and respect. It is best dealt with by taking a preventative approach that involves:

  • early identification of bullying, unreasonable behaviour and situations likely to increase the risk of bullying
  • implementing control measures to prevent the risks and respond to workplace bullying, and
  • monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the control measures.

Everyone in the workplace should actively work to prevent workplace bullying before it becomes a risk to health and safety. Prevention may be achieved by:

  • Ensuring senior management commitment to a workplace that does not tolerate unacceptable behaviours and deals with reports of bullying in a confidential, fair and timely manner
  • Consulting with workers to create and promote a mentally healthy workplace culture
  • Ensuring the organisation has appropriate workplace bullying policies and procedures in place and workers are trained in these procedures
  • Actively managing workplace psychosocial risk factors and stressors
  • Providing regular and respectful performance feedback
  • Having a Harassment Contact Officer (HCO) in place for workers to speak to
  • Ensuring there is training for workers and managers on workplace bullying
  • Including bullying and harassment information in workplace induction programs

Resources

Information SourceContents
Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullyingThis Guide provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage the risks of workplace bullying as part of meeting their duties under the work health and safety laws.
Dealing with workplace bullying- a workers' guideThis Guide provides information for workers who believe they may be experiencing or witnessing workplace bullying and those who have had a bullying report made against them.
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety
Bullying Policy Checklist for EmployersThis checklist provides a framework for developing a bullying policy to manage bullying in the workplace
Workplace Bullying Support PackA support pack for PCBUs with resources for conducting a workplace bullying campaign in the workplace
Workplace Bullying Fact Sheet - Australian Human Rights CommissionThis fact sheet on workplace bullying has been produced by the Australian Human Rights Commission
Respect: Promoting a culture free from harassment and bullying in the APSThis guide provides PCBUs with support and strategies to develop a culture of respect free from harassment and bullying
Fair Work Commission Anti-Bullying MeasuresThese measures are effective 1 January 2014. Workers who are being bullied at work will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop bullying. The Commission will start dealing with the matter within 14 days

Notifications

Information sourceWhat it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notificationHelps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 31 Mar 2016