Workplace Bullying Investigations
We take a holistic approach to managing sensitive workplace bullying & harassment investigations, using a range of disciplines combined with best practice methodology to help your organisation get to the bottom of the matter and move toward a positive outcome.
Occupational Health and Safety Laws place the legal onus upon employers to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of workers is protected. Preventing bullying, harassment and discrimination is considered intrinsic to OH&S principals and, from January 2014, employers will need to respond to workplace bullying and harassment complaints quickly and correctly or risk facing Enforceable Orders from the Fair Work Commission.
Under amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) workers now have the right to seek redress over workplace bullying through the Fair Work Commission. If a worker feels they are being bullied, they can apply for a Stop Bullying Order forcing the employer and the accused person to remedy the situation or face significant financial penalties. However, in making a decision to impose a Stop Bullying Order, the FWC must consider any investigations being undertaken by the employer and the outcomes of those investigations.
The new laws mean employers should take swift and appropriate steps to respond to formal and informal complaints of bullying and investigate (where appropriate). Depending on the seriousness and complexity of the complaint, an external investigation may be the most appropriate response. Having robust policies and training in place which address bullying in the workplace is also crucial. Employers will also need to ensure that their performance management processes are fair and reasonable.
Synergy Workplace Investigations provides a range of resources and services to help you effectively investigate and manage complaints of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination. We can also evaluate your existing policies and complaints management processes and advise on ways to improve.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (cth) workplace bullying is defined as ‘verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by an employer (0r manager), another person or group of people at work. Workplace bullying can happen to anyone who spends time in a workplace in a capacity which assists that workplace. Victims can be volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices or casual and permanent employees. Some types of workplace bullying such as physical violence and stalking are classed as criminal offences.
Examples of bullying behaviour in the workplace
- Attacking or threatening a worker with any type of object that can be used as a weaponPushing, shoving, tripping or grabbing a person in the workplace
- Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, belittling or making fun of a person’s family, sexuality, gender, race, culture, education or socio economic background
- Sexual harassment such as unwanted or unsolicited touching, sexually explicit jokes, comments or emails or any sort of invasion of a person’s personal space that would reasonably make them feel uncomfortable
- Playing mind games, ganging up or other types of psychological harassment
- Intimidation. Making a person feel less important or devalued.
- Giving a worker pointless tasks that are unrelated to their job or giving a worker tasks that are impossible to complete.
- Excluding or stopping a worker from working with people or taking part in workplace activities
- Deliberately and frequently changing rostered shifts or work hours to the detriment of the worker
- Deliberately withholding information needed by the worker to adequately perform their duties
- Initiation or ‘hazing’ – a ritualistic practice in which workers are made to carry out humiliating or inappropriate tasks in order to be accepted as part of the team.
Effects of Bullying and Harassment on a Workplace
Bullying and harassment in a workplace always impacts negatively on the business bottom line if it is not dealt with adequately. An organisation can be affected through;
- Lower productivity levels. Low morale equals diminished output
- Higher absentee rates. Stressed and unhappy workers are more likely to take sick leave
- Increased potential work WorkCover claims
- Reduced worker loyalty and trust
- Higher staff attrition rates. If workers feel they are not being adequately protected or their concerns ignored, they are more likely to seek employment elsewhere
What is NOT Workplace Bullying?
Your workers may dislike some of your management decisions. As a manager, you are not guilty of bullying or harassment if your decisions can be considered ‘reasonable management action’. The following actions are acceptable:
Transfers, demotion, disciplinary action, counseling, retrenchment and sacking is not bullying provided there are reasonable grounds.
Performance management is not bullying provided it is justified and not used as a punitive measure but as a genuine tool for improving diminished work performance.