Bully buckers? FWC issues only one anti-bullying order under new regime
The Fair Work Commission has issued just one anti-bullying order, despite over 500 complaints being made under its new anti-bullying jurisdiction up to the end of September 2014.
The FWC’s anti-bullying powers were introduced via amendments to the Fair Work Act by the Gillard Government in 2013. They allow a worker who believes that they have been bullied to apply to the FWC for an order to stop the bullying within a short time frame. The provision is not limited to employees but extends to contractors, labour hire personnel and persons engaged under other workplace arrangements.
Examples of behaviour, either intentional or unintentional, that may be considered workplace bullying if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety include: (a) abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments; (b) unjustified criticism or complaints; (c) setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines; (d) spreading misinformation or malicious rumours; and (e) changing work arrangements, such as rosters or leave, to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers.
During the September quarter 2014, there were no anti-bullying orders from 189 applications.
About a quarter of September’s applications (49) were withdrawn early in the case management process and a further 16 per cent (31 applications) were withdrawn further in the process but prior to formal proceedings.
The FWC reports that another quarter (48) of the applications were resolved during the course of proceedings. Of the 15 applications that were then finalised via a decision of the Commission, all of them were dismissed under s587, which allows it to dismiss applications on its own initiative, or upon application, or on grounds such as the application was not made in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009, was frivolous or vexatious, or had no prospects of success.
Most anti-bullying applications were made by employees (163), with several by a contractor or subcontractor and one by a volunteer. Managers were the clear source of most anti-bullying complaints, representing 126 of the applications, followed by co-workers (40 complaints).
The most populous states – New South Wales, Victoria and then Queensland – unsurprisingly accounted for most applications. Complaints were spread over a large number of industries with most coming from clerical workers (28) and the health and welfare (21), retail (17) and hospitality (14) industries.
The FWC’s latest quarterly report on the anti-bullying jurisdiction covers the period 1 July 2014 to 30 September 2014.
iHR Australia can help managers and staff identify what constitutes bullying and what constitutes reasonable management action. iHR Australia’s anti-bullying and harassment training does more than inform about lawful behaviour – it addresses the issue of how to prevent bullying through desired workplace behaviour and practices that reflect organisational values, improve culture and increase motivation and staff engagement.