Australia Is Placing New Workplace Bullying Laws From 2014

16 Nov 2013


Immigration News

Australia’s new workplace bullying laws come into force effective 1st January, 2014. According to the changes being implemented to the Fair Work Act 2009, allegations of the workplace bullying will be handled by the Fair Work Commission. Any employee who reasonably believes (s)he has been bullied can apply to the industrial tribunal of Australia for an order.

The Act was changed by the Labor government from the recommendation of a parliamentary committee. The committee found that employers were paying out an average $17,000 to $24,000 for each claim. It also found out that workplace bullying was costing the Australian economy up to $36 billion per year.

First time in Australia, there will be a comprehensive law that will make workplace bullying unlawful. Prior to the change, bullying came under a series of general laws including common law claims, workers' compensation and health and safety claims.

Abbott government may make some changes to machinery of the process including a new (as yet undefined) ‘filter process’ to make sure bullying complaints go through a process according to which, the employer learns about the claim prior to it going to the commission.

The commission cannot award compensation, but it can order the bullying to stop. The commission needs to take action regarding the complaint within 14 days of receiving it.

If the employer does not take any measures to stop the bullying, the employee can apply to the Federal Court. The court can then impose fines of $10,200 on an individual and $51,000 on a corporation.

With these changes, it will be possible to deal with more actively with bullying than what is possible at present.

Also, the definition of ‘worker’ in the Act goes beyond a simple employee. It includes people on work experience, contractors, outworkers, subcontractors, apprentices and trainees.  Even corporate board members and company directors may be able to go to the Fair Work Commission claiming they are being bullied.

This means company managers need to put an effective workplace bullying policy in place that clearly defines what sort of behavior is considered as bullying and is unacceptable. Also, an internal complaint system that is accessible to people who feel they are being bullied is necessary.

As the legal definitions of workplace bullying are now clearer than ever, and it is wise for both employees and employers to get expert legal advice on the new laws and preparing for them.


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