Work is a significant part of your life, consuming a substantial portion of your waking hours. Ideally, it’s a place where you feel valued, respected, and safe. However, for some, the workplace can become a battleground of bullying and harassment, leading to low self-esteem and anxiety causing you to feel lonely and dejected.
Understanding Workplace Bullying
Before I delve into the legal aspects, it’s crucial you understand what workplace bullying entails. It’s not about an occasional disagreement or a demanding boss. Workplace bullying involves repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or a group of employees, creating a risk to their health and safety. This behaviour can manifest as verbal abuse, offensive conduct, intimidation, or even cyberbullying.
Workplace Bullying: The Legal Landscape
And, now, let’s address the elephant in the room: Is workplace bullying illegal in Australia?
The short answer is, yes. Australia has recognised the detrimental effects of workplace bullying and has put in place legal frameworks to address it. The primary source of protection against workplace bullying is the Fair Work Act 2009.
Under this Act, workplace bullying is considered a serious issue, and employees have the right to pursue legal action if they experience bullying at work. Here are the key legal provisions related to workplace bullying:
- Fair Work Commission
The Fair Work Commission is the central authority dealing with workplace bullying matters in Australia. Employees who believe they are being bullied at work can apply to the Commission for an order to stop the bullying.
- What Constitutes Bullying?
According to the Fair Work Act, bullying includes behaviour such as:
Repeated unreasonable behaviour: This can range from yelling and insults to offensive emails and public humiliation.
Creating a risk to health and safety: If the behaviour poses a risk to an employee’s physical or psychological health, it may be considered workplace bullying.
- Legal Remedies
If the Fair Work Commission finds that bullying has occurred, it can issue orders to stop the behaviour. Breaching these orders can result in penalties.
- Protections for Whistleblowers
Australian law also protects whistleblowers who report workplace bullying. Whistleblowers are shielded from retaliation, ensuring that they can come forward without fear of repercussions.
- Other Legal Avenues
Apart from the Fair Work Act, workplace bullying can also be addressed through anti-discrimination laws, occupational health and safety regulations, and workers’ compensation laws, depending on the circumstances.
Taking Action Against Workplace Bullying
If you believe you’re a victim of workplace bullying, here are steps you can take:
1. Document the behaviour: Keep a detailed record of incidents, including dates, times, locations, people involved, and descriptions of the behaviour.
2. Report to Management: Notify your employer or supervisor about the bullying. Many organisations have internal procedures for addressing such issues.
3. Seek Legal Advice: If internal avenues don’t resolve the problem, consult a legal expert who specializes in employment law.
4. Contact the Fair Work Commission: If the bullying persists, you can apply to the Fair Work Commission for assistance.
5. Support Networks: Reach out to trusted colleagues, friends, or family members for emotional support.
6. Self-Care: Prioritise your mental and physical well-being. Seek counselling or therapy if needed.
7. Know Your Rights: Familiarise yourself with your legal rights and protections under Australian law.
Remember that you have the right to work in an environment free from bullying and harassment. Workplace bullying is not a problem to endure silently, there are legal protections in place to address it.
In conclusion, workplace bullying is indeed illegal in Australia. The Fair Work Act and other relevant legislation provide employees with essential safeguards against such harmful behaviour. If you’re facing workplace bullying, remember that you’re not alone, and legal remedies are available to help you regain control of your work environment.
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Disclaimer: The information and views expressed in the above blog article are individual and inspired from the writer’s experience and study in Mental Health & Hypnotherapy.