Dealing with workplace bullying

Have you experienced repeated and unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to your health and safety? If so, you could be facing bullying at work. In these instances, you may feel isolated, worried about what is going to happen next or dread going to work every day. Most of all, you may feel powerless.

Everyone has the right to a safe working environment free of risks to their physical, mental and emotional health, so we created a quick guide to assist you to deal with a bullying situation at work:

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer, manager, another person at your workplace or a group of people at work.

Workplace bullying takes many forms including:

  • Repeated hurtful comments;
  • Being left out or excluded from working with others;
  • Giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job;
  • Deliberately withholding information, you need for your job;
  • Playing mind games/ganging up; and
  • Spreading malicious rumours.

The Fair Work Act states that a worker is bullied at work if an individual or a group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker or a group of workers at work and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

What can you do?

Check if your work has a bullying policy and procedure. It is important to follow what is stated in a bullying policy. Apart from your Human Resources Department, you can get support from, a supervisor, a health and safety officer or a union delegate.

If you decided to lodge a formal complaint with your employer, ensure you document and date everything that has happened. You should note down:

What happened?

  • Who was involved in the example, including any witnesses?
  • Did you report the incident?
  • How many times has this behaviour happened?
  • How long ago did this behaviour start happening?
  • When was the last time this behaviour happened?

Note: Some behaviours are not workplace bullying. Management actions such as performance appraisals, ongoing meetings to address underperformance, counselling or disciplining a worker for misconduct, investigating alleged misconduct, refusing an employee permission to return to work due to a medical condition may not be considered bullying if it is reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

What if that doesn’t work?

You can lodge an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for a stop bullying order.

For the FWC to make the order, you must still be working in the business which the bullying took place. That means:

  • You are still engaged in connection with the workplace where the alleged bullying conduct occurred; and
  • You are still exposed to the bullying by the individual or group at work.

Note: The FWC does not have the power to award compensation in anti-bullying matters.

How can we help?

Workplace bullying can happen to anybody and its effects can be debilitating.

Many members contact us because they have reached a point where they can no longer deal with bullying. They have often had to put up with it for many months and even years. Usually the bullying has escalated, and the member has begun to feel alone and vulnerable.

The difficulty is starting the conversation if you’re feeling isolated, worried or powerless at work.

When you contact us, any one of our team of lawyers and industrial offers will provide you with personalised support to resolve any bullying issues you have, whether that’s dealing with your employer or with the Fair Work Commission.

This publication is general information only and is not intended to be used as legal advice or a substitute for legal advice.
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