Workplace bullying has a substantial impact on the economy and the individuals concerned and the businesses involved. It has been estimated that this problem costs the nation at least $6 billion annually. It has also been shown to leave victims with ongoing psychological trauma.

The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (Comcare) have issued a draft guidance notice to raise awareness of bullying as an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue and to advise employers on reporting procedures.

It is the legal obligation of all employers to ensure they provide their employees with a work environment that is safe and free from health risks. Bullying should be recognised as one of these risks and regarded with the same level of seriousness as other workplace hazards.


What is bullying?

Workplace bullying can be described as repeated, unreasonable behaviour targeted towards a person or group of persons in the workplace, which creates a risk to health and safety.

The health risks stemming from such behaviour are significant, ranging from depression and anxiety to major psychological conditions requiring a period of absence from work.


Reporting dangerous occurrences

Another part of this responsibility is the requirement to report all dangerous occurrences and accidents resulting in death, serious injury or over 30 consecutive working days of incapacity to Comcare.

Workplace bullying may fall under the definition of a dangerous occurrence if an employee is absent from work for 10 or more days due to bullying, or if the behaviour consists of several incidents over time.

An example of a dangerous occurrence involved an employee, named Jane, who was receiving unwanted attention from and being intimidated by her supervisor. This behaviour resulted in Jane taking 15 consecutive days off work. Her medical certificate stated that she was suffering from “adjustment disorder with anxiety” and that treatment was needed.

This is but one example of what can occur in workplaces without adequate policies that treat bullying as a safety issue, rather than a conduct one.


Managing the Risk?

It is imperative that employers have monitoring and early intervention strategies in place to resolve such issues as promptly as possible.

The various State and Federal worksafe authorities now have a clear expectation that businesses should take all reasonable steps to identify hazards and implement measures to reduce risk beyond simply having a workplace harassment and bullying policy and undertaking awareness training. The identification of poor management style and cultural issues are essential if prevention is to be effectively achieved.


How iHR Australia can Help

iHR Australia provides a complete range of OHS services and advice which can be tailored to ensure your business achieves a safe and productive work environment. Some of these services include reviews of your current safety systems and management plans. Such measures have been shown to significantly improve staff morale and overall productivity.

IHR’s survey services are a practical and confidential way for your organisation to ascertain and respond to the views of your employees on workplace bullying, or any other matter. The survey will be developed in consultation with your business and iHR Australia will deal with implementation, response analysis and will provide you with a comprehensive report. iHR Australia can then assist you develop targeted interventions to address areas of high risk.

Customised behavioral training for employees and management are another part of iHR Australia’s wide range of services. Conducted in-house, these sessions with the use of virtual theater techniques demonstrate the kinds of behaviour which constitute bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment, and have participants participate in developing strategies dealing with unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Finally, if things do go wrong, iHR Australia has a team of independent investigators that can assist deal with complaints and/or help train internal investigators to be able to more effectively conduct their own investigations.

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