Part of Professionals Australia

Government introduces new weapons to fight bullying

Last week the Federal Government released broad reforms to help reduce bullying in the workplace and resolve disputes quickly, in a package broadly welcomed by Professionals Australia.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The reforms include:

  • Allowing employees to seek assistance from the Fair Work Commission to quickly resolve bullying disputes before they escalate;
  • Developing materials to encourage management to prevent and respond to workplace bullying;
  • National accredited training for managers and health and safety representatives in the workplace to help them deal with bullying; and,
  • A new definition of bullying to be inserted in the Fair Work Act: “Bullying, harassment or victimisation means repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Michael Butler, Professionals Australia's Director of Industrial Relations, said any member who was subjected to any form of bullying should contact Professionals Australia's Workplace Advice and Support service to get expert advice on the best way forward, regardless of any new reforms.

Mr Butler said almost nine per cent of the individual workplace issues dealt with by Professionals Australia related to bullying or unfair treatment in the workplace.

“While we welcome these proposed reforms it is important that members contact Professionals Australia for advice on the best way to navigate the system,” Mr Butler said.

“Often we can resolve workplace issues like bullying without filing formal complaints, however the new reforms will give us more options to do that if needed.

“The sad reality is that workplace bullying will always occur in some workplaces regardless of legislative reform and that's why organisations like Professionals Australia can really help.”

Mr Butler said he was pleased that the Government had agreed with many of the formal recommendations Professionals Australia had made to the 2012 Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying.

“While we are yet to see the full detail of these reforms there is little doubt this is a few steps in the right direction,” Mr Butler said.

“Bullying is an unacceptable reality of many Australian workplaces and our experience is that employees subjected to bullying often feel they have little real opportunity to stamp it out.

“Last year we submitted evidence to the parliament to show that bullying doesn't just affect blue collar workers and students.  Unfortunately bullying affects thousands of professionals too.

“Unfortunately bullying and bullying allegations cause a great deal of stress and cost the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion every year in lost productivity.”

Mr Butler said many managers were also subjected to spurious bullying claims and they too would welcome steps to resolve bullying complaints quickly and as amicably as possible.

“Legitimate and carefully considered management of any real underperformance of an employee is not bullying but often frustrated employees feel they have no option but to level bullying allegations to feel heard,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Butler said Professionals Australia would request more detail of the reforms to help ensure they work well in practice.

“The detail of these reforms will be important and we want to make sure that Australia does everything possible to prevent workplace bullying and resolve disputes quickly.”

Read Professionals Australia's submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying “It Can Happen to Anyone at Any Time”.


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