The Fair Work Commission has handed down its first substantive bullying order under the new bullying jurisdiction, which commenced on 1 January 2014.
The anti-bullying provisions enable workers, who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work – that is, they reasonably believe they have been subject to repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to their health and safety - to seek relief. The Fair Work Commission can make any order it deems appropriate (other than an order for pecuniary damages or reinstatement), including an order for an individual to stop particular behaviour. In this matter, the Commission granted orders that the “bully” should:
- complete any work at the employer’s premises before 8.00am;
- have no contact with the co-worker (who made the application) alone;
- make no comment about the co-worker’s clothes or appearance;
- not send any emails or texts to the co-worker, except in emergency circumstances; and
- not raise any work issues with the co-worker without notifying the Chief Operating Officer of the company or his subordinate, beforehand.
The Commission also ordered that the co-worker who made the application should not arrive at work before 8.15am. The Commission also permitted the parties to have the matter relisted for further conference in order to deal with any difficulties in implementing the orders.
Key points for employers:
- Employers should consider what steps they can take internally to avoid instances of bullying and properly address allegations of bullying if they arise.
- If an allegation of bullying is made, employers should undertake an investigation. The Commission is required to take into account any findings of an investigation in making an order to stop bullying.
- If an application is made by an employee, the employer may be involved in negotiating consent orders under the new jurisdiction and should therefore consider practical solutions it can implement in the workplace to assist in the resolution of issues.
A link to the decision can be found here: Applicant v Respondent (AB2014/1052)