Workplace Bullying

Bullying – it’s a term that conjures up school playgrounds and childish groups ganging up on a smaller, weaker, more vulnerable child. It’s not an image that one easily transfers to Australia’s workplaces but actually occurs every day across Australia.

The definition of workplace bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Bullying can take many forms. It can be subtle or overt; perpetrated by a group or an individual and is an occupational health and safety hazard.

Types of behaviours an employer should be aware of include

  • Excluding a person from workplace social events
  • Spreading gossip or false rumours
  • Dangerous practical jokes or other types of humiliation.
  • Interfering with someone’s personal property or work equipment
  • Targeted, repeated and unjustified criticism
  • Unjustified threats of punishment
  • Overloading a particular person with too much work or an unreasonable share of unpleasant jobs
  • Unwarranted or unjustified constant checking of an employee’s work quality, output or whereabouts
  • Humiliating a person through criticism, sarcasm and/or insults, especially in front of other staff, customers or clients
  • Denying opportunities for training, promotion, interesting jobs or assignments
  • Deliberately withholding information necessary for a person to be able to perform work to the required standard

The Occupational Health Safety & Welfare Act places the onus on employers to ensure their employees are safe from health risks at work. When it comes to bullying, the risks to the wellbeing of staff can be extreme.

A well thought out and communicated Bullying Prevention Policy can go a long way to ensuring your staff are educated about bullying, hat behaviours are regarded as bullying; the effects at both an individual and workplace level; the complaints procedure for someone suffering from bullying and the penalties for bullying a co-worker.

As an employer, the Act requires you to investigate any complaints received, address and document the issues raised by the complaint and to take appropriate action when necessary.