New laws key to reducing impacts of workplace bullying

22 May 2013
Maurice Blackburn employment lawyer Josh Bornstein talks about the proposed new laws to address workplace bullying through the Fair Work Commission.

Leading employment lawyer Josh Bornstein will today address the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association Bullying Conference in Queensland, on the Federal Government's proposed workplace bullying laws.

The proposed laws will allow victims of workplace bullying, for the first time, to have an early intervention mechanism within the bullying cycle.

Critically, a worker who believes that bullying is occurring will be able to seek an order from the Fair Work Commission to have the conduct stop, addressing it immediately. (The laws will not give the FWC powers to make orders for compensation.)

The laws are designed to promptly deal with workplace bullying to help minimise health damage for the individual and restore working relationships. The FWC is required to deal with cases expeditiously.

In his presentation to the conference, Mr Bornstein will warn that the Coalition's support for the new laws may, in fact, prove to be their undoing.

"The Coalition's industrial relations policy expresses support for the new laws, although that support is conditional, and because of that, the Coalition's 'support' for new laws should be treated with the utmost scepticism," Mr Bornstein said.

"One condition is that victims of workplace bullying will not be able to seek an order stopping the conduct unless 'the worker has first sought help and impartial advice from an independent regulatory agency'. Such agencies are usually State-run occupational health and safety watchdogs, over which the Federal Government has no control.

"However, victims of workplace bullying have always had the option of making a complaint to State-based OH&S watchdogs, and one of the reasons the new Bill has been introduced is because those agencies have been unable to adequately deal with workplace bullying.

"The failure of OH&S agencies to properly deal with workplace bullying was recognised by the Productivity Commission in a 2010 report. It is a matter of notoriety that employees complaining to these agencies are often frustrated by lengthy delays and inaction.

"If the Coalition is elected and insists on this requirement, victims of workplace bullying are likely to stay stuck in the same limbo that exists now; trying to get through a bureaucratic maze while their health and employment is severely damaged."

Practice Areas: