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How to proactively manage workplace bullying.

Posted by Melissa Behrend on Dec 16, 2014 2:42:43 PM

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As mentioned in our previous post , workplace bullying costs Australian Business up to $6 billion per year across all industries. In light of that you may be asking: “what can my business do to proactively manage bullying if and when it starts?”

We will cover two common themes in this and upcoming articles. They are:

  1. Ensuring you have an up to date Bullying Policy. Make sure that your bullying policy is in an easily accessible location for your employees to find and read. This can be in a company policy folder, your company Intranet, or any other method you use to communicate policy changes to your employees.
  2. Training. This does not just mean the owner of the business; it means all employees. Everyone should know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to workplace bullying.

Stuart Miles

Every person in the organisation has a responsibility for maintaining Health and Safety. Therefore, everyone has a responsibly to prevent or address bullying.

You should also consider this: Do you have a process for receiving and managing complaints if and when they are made? Also, are you satisfied this process reasonable and clear enough to protect both yourself and your workers?

Safe Work Australia has a great guide to help you through the stages of preventing bullying. It’s laid out to show you how to prevent bullying step by step. These are:

  1. Identifying the potential for bullying; e.g. workforce characteristics, apprentice targeting, etc.
  2. Controlling the risks; e.g. setting the standards of behaviour in the workplace and training
  3. Monitoring and reviewing your process. You gather this information using exit interviews, responding to complaints, monitoring unusually high levels of sick days, etc.

We must also remember the definition of bullying behaviour:

  1. It is repeated;
  2. It is unreasonable;
  3. It may be directed at either individuals or a group of employees, and;
  4. It is a risk to health and safety.

Note point 4: That bullying is a risk to health and safety.  As a business owner you are obliged to provide your employees with a safe and healthy work environment.  Any breach in Health and Safety regulations is considered a criminal offence. Both your company and employees or managers may be fined or face other punitive measures.

As you may all be aware, as of January 2014, employees may lodge a bullying complaint directly with the Fair Work Commission.  Even though the Commission cannot order you to pay compensation, the employee can petition the Federal Court, which may impose a civil penalty on you or your colleagues.

It’s simple to see why bullying should be addressed in a proactive way. You should have a thorough, up to date policy and appropriate training for all managers and employees, ensuring they understand their workplace role and responsibilities.

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