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What is workplace bullying?

A worker is bullied at work if an individual (or a group of individuals) repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker (or a group of workers), and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. It is irrelevant whether the individual, or individuals, who are bullying intend to bully the victim.

It is important to note that bullying involves repeated unreasonable behaviour. A single incident is insufficient.

Unreasonable behaviour includes:

  • constant unjustified criticism or complaints
  • constant threats to sack or demote
  • excluding someone from workplace activities
  • inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement of rules
  • setting unreasonable timelines
  • deliberately changing work arrangements in order to inconvenience someone
  • setting tasks that are unreasonable
  • excessive scrutiny of work performance
  • withholding information or tools required to perform work
  • taking credit for another employee's work and failing to acknowledge that employee
  • verbal abuse
  • physical assault.


Behaviours involving unwanted physical contact or damage to property may also constitute criminal offences. If you experience any such behaviour, you should also consider reporting the matter to the police.

 

Your rights

Your rights can vary depending on a number of factors including the nature of the workplace bullying and the reason for the workplace bullying. 

Federal anti-bullying laws were introduced in 2014, and are designed to stop workplace bullying promptly. However, the laws do not entitle bullying victims to monetary compensation or reinstatement.

Workplace bullying may also be covered by discrimination law, general protections under the Fair Work Act 2009, unfair dismissal law, employment contract law and enterprise agreements in the workplace, and occupational health and safety law.

 

What to do if you are being bullied

Keep a diary

Take notes of all the workplace bullying and harassment that happens to you, including when it happens and who the perpetrator is.

Be informed

Make sure you have a copy of your contract of employment, enterprise agreement and workplace policies and procedures that deal with occupational health and safety and harassment.

Contact your union

Many unions are experienced in dealing with workplace bullying and harassment. If the workplace bullying and harassment is affecting a number of employees there are advantages to addressing it collectively.

Address the situation early

Employees who are subject to workplace bullying and harassment often put the issue to one side and wait before it gets really bad before addressing it. By this time the employee may have already suffered a work related stress injury; if this is the case, they may not be able to continue working.

Make a complaint

Employees who make a complaint or inquiry in relation to their employment are protected from adverse action under the Fair Work Act 2009. Ideally, you should get advice prior to making a complaint.  It is better if the complaint is in writing because this will be easier to use as evidence, should the need arise. When writing a complaint be concise and stick to the key points. You should also check any policies that your employer has relating to complaints, grievances, bullying or equal opportunity. These policies may detail the form and process for making a complaint. 

Take care of your health

Your mental and physical health is very important. If workplace discrimination, bullying or harassment is affecting you, make sure you see your doctor about it.

Seek advice

Working out which legal or practical decisions to make can be difficult with workplace bullying cases. We can provide support and advice on a range of legal and personal matters.

 

How we can help you

As the leading employment law practice in the country, we have a highly successful record in employment and bullying litigation and we can support you. You should consider seeking legal advice with our expert lawyers if:

  • your employment is covered by the federal anti-bullying laws,
  • you are experiencing repeated and unreasonable behaviour in connection with your work,
  • the behaviour is creating a risk to your physical or mental health or safety, or
  • the behaviour is likely to continue unless action is taken to stop the behaviour.

We're by your side

We have an outstanding record of achieving successful outcomes for employees in both the private and public sector. We know how to navigate this increasingly complex and ever-changing area of the law.


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Get in touch. Call us on 1800 810 812 to book an initial consultation. Your first consultation costs $690 (incl GST).

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At your one hour consult our lawyers will provide advice on your situation, the best action to take, and next steps. 

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Most of our cases are resolved out of court, and discretion is assured.


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