The first substantive orders have been made in an anti-bullying application in the Fair Work Commission. Details of the facts of the case (including the names of the parties) are not available, but the agreement reached by the parties at an FWC conference, and the order made by the FWC, included the following provisions:
- The alleged bully was not to have contact with the applicant employee alone, and was not to comment on the applicant’s clothes or appearance.
- The alleged bully was not to send any emails or texts to the applicant employee, except in an emergency, and was not to raise any work issues with the applicant without notifying the COO of the employer, or his subordinate, beforehand.
- The alleged bully was required to complete any exercise at the employer’s premises before 8.00am, and the applicant was required not to arrive at work before 8.15am.
- If there were difficulties in implementing the order, the parties had leave to return to the FWC to have the matter further considered.
The reference to exercise being undertaken at the employer’s premises suggests that the employer was a sizable undertaking, and that is likely to have it made more readily feasible to implement a solution based on there being no contact between the applicant and the alleged bully. Such separation would be much more difficult to organise in a small business, especially if the alleged bully were to be one of a small number of management employees, or the proprietor of the business. The orders indicate the sort of orders regulating the workplace conduct of the parties in the workplace which might be made in other cases which proceed to be dealt with in full by the Fair Work Commission.
Obviously it is desirable from an employer’s point of view to avoid being party to bullying proceedings before the FWC. The best way to minimise this risk is to implement clear policies about bullying behaviour in the workplace, to train employees in relation to that policy, and to implement the policy firmly and consistently whenever any conduct which might amount to bullying comes to the attention of management or supervisors. The commencement of the anti-bullying legislation is an opportunity to review bullying and related policies (eg discrimination, harassment and grievance handling) and undertaking refresher training for managers and staff.