Workplace bullying can be difficult to identify, falls across a number of areas, with complexity about legal consequences. Fair Work Commission (FWC) has announced they are preparing a code of practice. It is becoming an increasingly difficult risk to manage, and costing companies in excess of $13 million annually.
Some important statistics include: complaints in some jurisdictions that have doubled in the last 12 months, 2.5 million workers experience some form of bullying during their working life and it is estimated bullying makes up 25% of all work psychological claims.
The Safe Work Australia model Code of Practice: “Preventing and responding to Workplace Bullying” is expected to be finalised in the first half of 2013. It is anticipated to set the bar high and aims to recognise the serious psychological impact of bullying on workers.
The general trend is leaning towards Employers (PCBU’s) being held primarily responsible for preventing bullying in the workplace and the model code aims to set best practice in relation to controlling bullying risks, and apparently will have some controversial features. When finalized we will advise all our readers.
The model code of practice will be a good guide and should provide a concise outline of risk indicators. It is suggested that organisations should have at the very least a policy for bullying, as this is the minimum action you can have to ensure due diligence.
The bottom line is that your workers behavior can pose a hazard for the business and demonstrating due diligence in this matter is essential. For example, having a bullying policy that is current, with the capacity to mirror the bullying code of practice, will provide the most robust control measure.
For those in Victoria, the current WorkSafe guide “Worksafe bullying-prevention and response” (2012) is relevant to you now.
Managing the risk – What should you do?
- Review existing workplace bullying policies;
- Need to review existing complaint resolution procedures (Make it simple);
- Ensure adequate and up-to-date training;
- Officers need to be aware of how the business is ensuring it is addressing the risk of workplace bullying (Encouraging a reporting culture, such as help lines can assist etc.).
Proposal to increase powers of FWC - The underlying message here is that there is awareness that safety legislation is insufficient to handle bullying and as a result the Fair Work Act will be amended to allow bullying victims to seek assistance from FWC. The definition of bullying from Safe Work Australia will be adopted and the FWC is aiming to complement State WHS systems as a result of this change in legislation. At the moment there is lots of debate and it is essential that Employers /PCBUs keep themselves up to date.
If you need assistance in developing your workplace bullying policy and procedures, please contact Phillip Kamay Safety Action on T (03) 9690 6311.