Family restaurant avoids bullying orders by changing workplace culture
A family restaurant that implemented positive measures after a bullying complaint has avoided anti-bullying orders being issued by the Fair Work Commission. A catering attendant made an anti-bullying application to Fair Work Australia in September 2014. This application was subject to extensive conciliation. The applicant discontinued the matter and then lodged a subsequent anti-bullying allegation in April 2015.
The catering attendant, who commenced employment in September 2013, made a number of bullying allegations. Specifically, the applicant alleges the employer allowed the former Head Chef to engage in unreasonable conduct, which at certain times was directed at her. The unreasonable conduct occurred in early 2014. Examples of bullying behaviour directed towards the applicant include:
● “Those morons out there, f***ing retards, f***ing idiots (all referring to floor staff)”;
● “When are you going to learn to do your job properly and not f*** everything up?”;
● “Are you f***ing serious, don’t you know how to take orders for entrees!”;
● “Ahh here we go XX (another Chef) another order MAINS ONLY!”;
● “F***in mains only again, what a surprise”;
● “When we get some real waiters here who actually know how to do their jobs things might get better”;
● “Pull your f***ing head in yeah”.
In a February 2016 ruling, the Commissioner noted that the history of this particular matter and the extent of positive measures that the employer had subsequently put into place as a result of [the catering attendant’s] applications such as:
• Re-induction of staff on new arrangements following a mediation conducted by the Commission;
• Training in relation to bullying in the workplace;
• Development of a new human resources policy outlining appropriate behaviour in the workplace
Based on this, the Commissioner did not consider that the making of orders at this time would be conducive to the constructive resumption of working relationships.
The above decision illustrates the importance of employers taking proactive steps to change their workplace culture when or even before a bullying allegation has been made. To avoid time-consuming and costly cases such as this employers need to put in place anti-bullying measures to ‘nip bullying in the bud’. This involves creating a workplace culture that has zero tolerance for bullying.
An important anti-bullying measure is appointing workplace Contact Officers. John Boardman, iHR’s Director of Workplace Relations, advises that the role of a Contact Officer is to provide information and support to people who have concerns about workplace behaviour. The Contact Officer can provide the employee with information about their options, the process to make a complaint and refer the employee to the relevant policies and procedures.
According to Boardman one of the most common problems for Contact Officers is getting the confidence of people to come and talk to them. He notes that often organisations appoint a HR Manager as the Contact Officer as this can pose real dangers as the HR Manager has to wear more than one hat. This may result in a conflict of interest as, ideally, a Contact Officer should be a peer rather than part of the management structure.
iHR believes that prevention is the best cure and ensuring Contact Officers are correctly trained can help minimise the potential for bullying claims. Contact iHR today for more information about their Contact Officer training.