1 January 2014 New Start Date for New Anti-Bullying Measures

The new anti-bullying amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), which passed through the House of Representatives on 6 June 2013 which, if also passed by the Senate (which is expected), will take effect on 1 January 2014.

In the March 2013 edition of Employment Matters, Piper Alderman reviewed the proposed amendments to provide the Fair Work Commission (FWC) with jurisdiction to make orders to “stop” workplace bullying, which were to take effect on 1 July 2013.

The amendments will allow workers (defined in Workplace Health and Safety legislation to include employees, contractors and even volunteers) to make an application to the FWC if they reasonably believe they are being bullied.

The FWC will have the power to make any orders (other than monetary orders) it considers appropriate to prevent bullying. For example, the FWC could make an order that a dismissal not occur.

The FWC estimates that it will deal with approximately 3,500 anti-bullying applications annually.

The expansion of the FWC’s jurisdiction will provide workers and unions with another avenue to challenge an employer’s management and practices. It may prove to be a useful tool to assist with resolving legitimate bullying claims, but it will also mean that employers will need to ensure its processes are thorough and transparent and there is a paper trail to support the action taken.

Revised Draft Bullying Code of Practice Released

The Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying Draft Bullying Code of Practice was released for further public comment by Safe Work Australia (SWA) on 3 June 2013.

A summary of the changes between the recent draft and the early draft is set out in the June edition of Health and Safety Matters.

The Revised Draft Bullying Code is now subject to a second public consultation period. Submissions need to be received by SWA by 15 July 2013.

Next Steps

Employer’s should:

  • Implement or update anti-bullying policies
  • Train managers and others who may receive complaints
  • Train all employees on what is and what is not workplace bullying and the complaints process under the antibullying policy
  • Ensure appropriate processes are in place to assist officers of organisations to exercise due diligence to inform themselves of the bullying risks and anti-bullying safety processes in their organisations