In brief - Fair Work Commission to deal with workplace bullying complaints

Effective 1 January 2014, the Fair Work Commission will have the jurisdiction to deal with workplace bullying complaints as a result of the pre-election amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 by the Labor government.

Anti-bullying case management model released by Fair Work Commission

On 20 November 2013, the Fair Work Commission's president, Justice Iain Ross, announced that Commissioner Peter Hampton will head the new anti-bullying panel of the Commission.

In addition, he released the proposed anti-bullying case management model and anti-bullying bench book to assist employers and staff identify what type of matters will fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission and to outline how bullying complaints would be dealt with before the Commission.

Fair Work Commission to have power to make orders that bullying behaviours cease

Effective 1 January 2014, a worker will be able to lodge an application requesting an order that workplace bullying cease.

The Commission will not have the jurisdiction to order compensation, but will be able to make orders that bullying behaviours cease.

If the respondents do not take appropriate action to ensure that the bullying behaviours cease, the worker can apply to the Federal Court to have fines of up to $51,000 applied for a corporation or $10,200 for an individual.

Bullying complaints may be listed for mediation, conciliation or arbitration

The respondents will be provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegations raised in the application.

The anti-bullying panel of the Commission will make a determination as to whether the matter should be listed for mediation, conciliation or for an arbitration hearing and the matter will be assigned to a Commission member.

Employers should review their anti-bullying policies and procedures

Although it will take time for jurisprudence to develop, recent decisions of the Commission dealing with workplace bullying will provide guidance to employers in how to minimise exposure to claims of workplace bullying under the Fair Work Act.

We recommend that you:

  • conduct a review of your current workplace bullying policy to ensure that it is up to date
  • ensure that your workplace bullying policy contains an internal complaint procedure
  • ensure that all of your staff are regularly trained on what constitutes bullying behaviour and what is not bullying behaviour