New Australian Workplace Bullying Laws

Posted on February 17, 2014 in Bullying in the News by editor

Australia’s workplace bullying laws  form part of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth). This all-encompassing law makes bullying conduct unlawful, with workers having the right to redress workplace bullying through the Fair Work Commission.

What this means for employers

  • These new laws bring into question “Reasonable Management Action”, which remains an exception to the law. However, employers may find that workers allege that performance management amounts to bullying.
  • The onus is on the employer to establish that performance management is “reasonable management action, carried out in a reasonable manner”, which might lead to significant costs.
  • If a claim is made to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), they cannot impose a payment penalty. However, they can make an order to prevent the worker from being bullied.
  • If an employer does not comply with this order, the worker can apply to the Federal Court, which will impose a penalty if it is determined that the employer has contravened the FWC order.
  • Maximum penalties for employers would be $51,000 and $10,200 for an individual. Individuals involved in the contravention, such as managers and directions, could also be penalized.

In order to avoid such a claim, all employers should:

  • Have an effective workplace bullying policy in operation
  • Ensure that all employees, including casual workers and contractors, those on work experience, trainees and apprentices, are trained in relation to this policy
  • Have a well-documented and fully communicated performance management and disciplinary process in place to assist in dealing with “reasonable management action”.