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New measures for workplace bullying victims in March 2013

Employment Minister, Bill Shorten, has announced new measures aiming to support people who are bullied at work.

The proposed changes are, in part, designed to speed up the process for workers who take a bullying complaint to the Fair Work Commission. The changes are based on the results of a government study conducted in May last year in which 320 submissions were made. Shorten noted that the study showed the process for resolving bullying complaints is often time-consuming and drawn out, impacting negatively on victims and businesses.

Speaking on ABC News this morning, Shorten stated that the government is mindful of the risk of frivolous complaints and the legislation would include the principle that "reasonable management practice...is not bullying."

When interviewed by 3AW, Shorten stated that the legislation will apply to large and small businesses and the government is considering a fine of around $3000 to organisations which do not comply with recommendations or directives handed down from the FWC or a state body. The government plans to bring in changes as early as the end of March "workplace relations is not something which should just be rolled out every 3 years, it happens every day" said Shorten.

Mr John Boardman iHR Australia's Director of Workplace Relations commented: "While iHR Australia is very supportive of making external interventions more efficient, great care will need to be taken to ensure this does not just become another opportunity to take grievances external to the organisation, without first attempting to utilise the internal processes for handling complaints".

Mr Boardman warned; "This has the potential to shift the cost of handling these matters from the organisation concerned to the tax payer. If our experience with the rapid growth in the number of complaints is anything to go by, the proposed provisions could end up with more applications than currently are made under the Unfair Dismissal provisions". According to FWC's 2011 – 2012 Annual Report there were 14,027 unfair dismissal applications (s 394).

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