New Anti-Bullying bill passed – How will your business respond?

By admin on July 19, 2013 in Anti-bullying, News

Currently in Australia we have no specific laws applied in relation to Anti-bullying apart from some fairly restricted criminal laws in Victoria.

Bill Shorten, federal Workplace minister announced back in February 2013 that there was capacity to introduce an entirely new system relating to Anti-bullying measures, as promised, these changes were delivered in the latest Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013. The Bill was passed on July ’01 and changes relating to anti-bullying will come into effect as of Jan ’14 and are set to change the protocol followed by businesses in dealing with bullying in the Workplace.

Firstly, as with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the fair Work 2013 amendment will ensure employers are responsible not just for their direct employees but for ‘any individual who performs work in any capacity, including as an employee, a contractor, a subcontractor, an outworker, an apprentice, a trainee, a student gaining work experience or a volunteer.’

The second most noticeable change looks to enable employees a more direct approach in cases of bullying occurring with the worker now able to bypass their employer and go directly to the FWC (Fair Work Commission) to lodge their complaint. In the current system, controlled by Safework or Worksafe Australia (depending on which state you are in) this has not been the case. As of Jan ‘14 The FWC (Fair Work Commission) is now the first port of call for a worker and shall be entitled to have an order taken out to stop the bullying within 14 days from initial complaint. According to the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013, the FWC will then have authority to undertake any necessary action on behalf of the worker to prevent them from being bullied in their place of work by the individual or group. The FWC will not however be in a position to give any orders in the form of monetary fines on businesses. The position of the FWC it seems it to act on behalf of the worker, facilitating a more immediate termination of bullying within the workplace.

In a study conducted by Safework Australia December 2012, depression due to job strain and bullying had cost Australian employers a whopping AUD$693 million per annum in sickness, absence and absenteeism issues. Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue that impacts not only directly on individuals but breeds an unhealthy and unproductive culture for any Australian business affected.

Favourable outcomes for employers in cases that have reached a court hearing are much more common. According to studies undertaken, the employee more often than not fails to prove their case on merit. Under the current laws the employee is at a disadvantage from the outset of making their claim with lengthy time frames, lack of discretion & and limited control. The new laws are a bid to balance the scales between the employer and worker and hope for more equality in the claims process.

Breakdown: What do the new laws mean for businesses?

There are three significant changes to be made that will overrule what we currently have in place in relation to Anti- bullying laws:

  • The new laws will allow an employee who feels they have been legitimately bullied in their workplace, to bypass their employer and make a claim directly to the FWC (Fair Work Commission.
  • The employee then can expect a 14 day timeframe for the issue to be handled. This may pose a problem for the employer if they have been unaware any bullying in their workplace has been occurring. The employer would need to look into and observe the allegations which may prove difficult in a 14 day timeframe.
  • The broadening of regulations to extend past ‘employees’ to ‘workers’ which will include contractors and their employees apprentices, trainees, students gaining work experience, volunteers and on-hired workers. This will open up businesses to a whole new avenue of vulnerability should they not have correct and appropriate policies and procedures in place.

Business owners are being strongly urged to adopt new policies where needed surrounding Anti-bullying measures & ensuring all staff are well informed of changes in relation to new laws, policies and claims. Prevention is always better than treating the cause and educating your staff of the most up to date expectations is a sure way to protect your business.

Tusk offers on-site training for both supervisors and workers on all policies & guidelines surrounding Anti-Bullying laws. Our courses are also focused on creating respect within the Work place and cultivating healthy working relationships.

Download more reading here:

Anti-bullying (supervisors)_ Info Sheet

Anti-bullying (workers)_ Info Sheet