One in three Australian workers has been bullied at work, new figures from UMR Research reveal, with over half of them being the victim of persistent office gossip or malicious rumours. Being blamed for other people’s mistakes, credit for your work taken by others, verbal abuse and unjustified criticism have emerged as the biggest complaints of Australian workers.

Fifty seven percent say they have been unfairly micromanaged at some point in their careers. Women are more likely to be bullied than men, but females are also 10 percent more likely to be the culprit. Co-workers were responsible for 53 percent of bullying cases, followed by managers (47 percent), supervisors (36 percent) and business owners (16 percent).

As a result of the outcry over the bullying-related death of young Melbourne waitress Brodie Panlock, anti-bullying legislation called Brodie’s Law was passed in Victoria in 2011 that sees the worst bullies imprisoned for up to 10 years. It is an extension of anti-stalking provisions under the Crimes Act.

Employment Minister, Bill Shorten told News Limited that the Federal Government is working towards the adoption of a national definition of bullying across states and territories by 1 July 2013. The Federal Government will amend the Fair Work Act to enable the Fair Work Commission to hear bullying complaints within 14 days. Labour lawyers have welcomed the move, saying that a speedy hearing of bullying matters would help prevent toxic situations from developing.

Employer groups criticised the initiative, indicating that bullying is a WHS not an industrial issue and should be dealt with at a State level where existing bodies already have enforceable powers.

In the draft workplace bullying national Code of Practice, ‘workplace bullying’ is defined as repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

The primary duty in relation to workplace bullying lies with the “person conducting a business or undertaking” to provide and maintain a work environment free from any risk to health and safety.

Officers (including company directors and secretaries) are required to exercise due diligence in ensuring that their business or undertaking is complying with its legal obligations to eliminate or reduce risks associated with bullying in the workplace, this includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that appropriate resources and processes are being used.

Workers also have their own duty to ensure that they are taking reasonable care regarding their own health and safety and the health and safety of others in the workplace.


iHR Australia cautions that senior managers and company directors must exercise due diligence with regards to workplace bullying. When new managers are appointed, for example on the basis of technical skill, organisations must ensure that they also possess the necessary people skills to do their job. iHR recommends that organisations assess the training and development needs of their managers, or those moving in to supervisory roles, and provide appropriate training opportunities, coaching and support.

In addition to our program for managers, iHR Australia is now offering EEO, anti-bullying, harassment and discrimination training for employees.

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