While bullying is not specifically mentioned in health and safety legislation, employers have a duty under all health and safety legislation to protect the health, safety and welfare of its workers.
Bullying poses a known health and safety risk, and as an employer, it is your duty to do everything reasonably practicable to prevent or minimise the risk of bullying in your workplace.
Also, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has powers under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to stop workers being bullied at work.
Bullying is defined as any behaviour that is directed towards a person or group of people, and:
- is repeated;
- is unreasonable;
- is unwelcome; and
- causes either physical or psychological harm.
To proactively prevent and manage workplace bullying in your organisation, you can do the following:
- Identify what good behaviour is through a clear and aligned description of your purpose, values and expected standards of behaviour.
- Conduct a risk assessment and develop an action plan based on the prevalence of bullying behaviour in the workplace and its causes (such as poor culture). Stop it and support those who are affected.
- Create organisational documentation and undertake training that will manage the risks you have identified, ensure your supervisors or managers remain close to their staff and are authorised and have the skills to intervene to stop the behaviour, and monitor the success of your action plan.
By taking the steps above, you will have addressed your health and safety obligations in the following ways:
- Identifying all hazards in your workplace and determining the level of risk based on the frequency and severity of the hazard, as well as instituting a sustainable control to minimise or eliminate the risk so far as reasonably practicable.
- Doing everything reasonably practicable to provide a healthy and safe work environment, including mandating a safety system and monitoring employee health.
- Developing a safety system that involves having a plan built on risk, a process for implementing that plan, training to make people competent in safety, and supervisors to educate others and enforce the plan. In addition, a monitoring process to determine that the plan is being put into practice, and a reporting system that measures its effectiveness and allows for improvement.
- The officers, e.g. directors, of the organisation will have up-to-date knowledge about health and safety matters, know the risks that exist within the organisation, and ensure there are adequate resources to deliver the safety plan, and monitor its implementation and improvement.
If you work from the basis that it is unacceptable for workers to fail to commit to the organisation’s purpose and/or act in accordance with its values and expected standards of behaviour, you have a real chance to stop bullying before it happens.
And under health and safety law, this is mandatory.