Workplace bullies face 10 years in jail
4 March 2012
Amendments to Victorian legislation passed in June last year
mean workplace bullies could now face up to ten years in jail.
The amendments were prompted by the suicide of Melbourne teenager Brodie Panlock in 2006. Ms Panlock’s suicide was in response to intense bullying from her colleagues at a Hawthorn café. The tragic story leapt into the headlines and generated plenty of discussion around employers’ responsibilities regarding workplace bullying.
The amendments to the Crimes Act 1958, nicknamed “Brodie’s Law,” see “threats and abusive words or acts” added to the scope of stalking, while the definition of harm is expanded to include self-harm, psychological harm and suicidal thoughts.
While these new laws increase penalties for individual workplace bullies, they don’t reduce the obligations of Victorian employers to deal with bullying in the workplace. In fact, employers must remain vigilant – the new legislation combines with existing provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requiring employers to provide a safe work environment that is free from risks to the health and safety of its employees. There is talk that the Victorian amendments may be enacted in other states too.
Employers should check their existing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new legislation. You may also want to brief your employees on the new laws and the contribution they make to a safe workplace.