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Recent developments in the Bullying Jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission

We previously published an article on our website regarding the Fair Work Commission’s jurisdiction to issue “stop orders” in relation to workplace bullying which came into place on 1 January, 2014.

In March 2014 a full bench of the Fair Work Commission decided that the Commission will now consider past bullying behaviour, which occurred prior to the commencement of the new jurisdiction, in deciding applications for stop orders.

Prior to the commencement of the new legislation, the Fair Work Commission was hearing 3500 bullying applications annually, or 67 per week on average. Since the introduction of the amendments to the Fair Work Act, 2009, the Commission has dealt with just 150 applications nationally.

The Commission is now considering the question of whether a Union can apply for stop bullying orders on behalf of workers. At present, applications must be commenced by “a worker” (a party to an application for a stop bullying order requires permission from the Commission to be represented). If the Commission determines that unions can make representative applications on behalf of workers, this may lead to a significant increase in the number of applications heard by the Commission nationally.

In addition to the risk of orders by the Fair Work Commission in respect of bullying, employers also face important regulations under Occupational Health and Safety legislation and the risk of criminal prosecution. Claire Tuffield, Solicitor, emphasises that “in the current regulatory environment, bullying is probably one of the most significant and underestimated risks in modern workplaces. It is not an area that employers can afford to manage reactively”.

For more information on workplace bullying and harassment, contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 to speak to an experienced Solicitor today.

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