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New bullying jurisdiction makes first finding, highlighting importance of flexible and rapid training for employees

In the first formal ruling since the inception of its January 2014 anti-bullying jurisdiction, the Fair Work Commission has found that two employees at a small real estate business were victims of bullying.

 

 

The head of the FWC’s bullying panel issued the orders during a determinative conference, where he stated that he was satisfied, based upon the evidence, that a property manager had bullied and harassed the employees (whose identities were suppressed). Upon allegations that the manager had engaged in continued "unreasonable conduct", exhibiting such behaviours as belittling conduct, physical intimidation, inappropriate language, threats of violence and attempts to incite applicants to victimise other staffers, the employer conducted an informal investigation, with attempts at mediation proving unsuccessful.

The manager was ultimately appointed to an equivalent position in another branch of the business. The employer argued that because the manager had been removed, the employees' concerns had been addressed and there was no likelihood that bullying would continue.

Despite the manager's relocation, both employees remained intimidated to the point of taking leave from work, going on to lodge workers compensation claims for associated medical treatment and costs. The employees argued that while the manager had moved offices, there was the likely "potential for interaction" with him due to the nature of the business.

The Commissioner said that because of the real risk that the employees would continue to be bullied, the Commission had the capacity to make the necessary orders. He observed that an "unprofessional" workplace culture had persisted and interactions took place in the workplace that "created a risk to the health and safety of a number of the workers".

He made orders by consent, that the employees and manager not approach each other or attend the other business premises for 24 months.

He ordered the employer to more broadly address the organisation's culture and "broader conduct within" it. This included establishing and implementing anti-bullying policies, procedures and training.

The fast changing regulatory environment around workplace issues, such as bullying, and the capacity of the Commission to intervene quickly and make orders means that employers have to respond quickly to such workplace issues as fostering a workplace culture that prevents bullying.

In the case of anti-bullying policies, procedures and training, such elements as effective and efficient approaches, targeting different audiences and learning styles and maintaining consistency of content delivery need to be considered.

iHR Australia offers a range of training solutions which can be integrated into a blended learning approach, which combines face-to-face training and eLearning. Face-to-face training uses our Workplace Reality Theatre methodology, which features professional actors and an experienced facilitator, with program participants invited to practise their skills by interacting with the actors. This helps to build confidence and embed learning for students. Our online training is delivered and created in collaboration with our production partner, World Learning Hub, using 3D animations to engage learners and demonstrate behaviours.

When applied in a workplace setting, blended learning offers organisations the flexibility of engaging learners and delivering training in an effective and efficient way. The ability to customise sessions, adapt content to a company’s environment, insert organisational policies and codes of conduct, as well as developing new modules to integrate with existing training provisions, showcase the value of blended learning as a tool for retaining a course’s subject matter and utilising it effectively in the future.

 

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