Is your business ready for the new anti-bullying regime due to commence on 1 January, 2014?
Pursuant to the Work Health & Safety Act, 2011 (NSW) a person conducting a business has a primary duty to take all steps reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of its workers. The Act prescribes mandatory actions that must be taken to eliminate and minimise bullying in the workplace (rules).
A worker is bullied at work if the worker is subjected to repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual or group of individuals and that creates a risk to health and safety. These include obvious forms of bullying such as physical assaults, name calling and initiation rituals, but also more subtle forms of bullying such as favouritism and ostracising of workers. A worker is not bullied at work if the worker was subject to reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.
As of 1 January, 2014, the Fair Work Commission will be able to intervene in a workplace to stop bullying once it has happened. A worker who reasonably believes that they have been bullied can apply to the Commission for an order and the Commission must deal with the complaint within fourteen (14) days of receiving it. In that time the Commission can inform itself about the allegation, conduct a conciliation conference and conduct a hearing.
The Commisison can make a stop bullying order if it is satisfied that the worker has been bullied at work and there is a risk it will continue. Any person or business who contravenes an anti-bullying order is exposed to a civil penalty (of up to $10,200.00 for individuals and $51,000.00 for corporations, per contravention) however no compensation is payable to victims.
It is therefore of vital importance that all organisations:-
- Have up to date and relevant workplace policies which set out appropriate standards of employee behaviour;
- Have credible formal and informal complaints handling and investigation procedures in place;
- Respond quickly and objectively to complaints of bullying;
- Ensure that staff are adequately trained in handling such complaints; and
- Are willing to enforce the policy at various levels of the organisation.
For more information or advice in relation to managing bullying claims, or to discuss how the anti-bullying laws may impact upon your business, please call Brazel Moore Lawyers on 4324 7699.