The definition of ‘bullying’ under the new harmonised Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) will be:

Repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

The definition, contained in the draft Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying Code of Practice (Code), has drawn scorn from the Federal Opposition. Eric Abetz, the ShadowWorkplace Relations Minister, has claimed that this definition means that trivial acts, such as eye rolling, may potentially qualify as bullying. His argument comes from the Code’s definition of “unintentional bullying”, which is:

Actions which, although not intended to humiliate, offend, intimidate or distress, cause and should reasonably have been expected to have that effect.

According to Mr Abetz, this has created an extra layer of red tape that employers will have to deal with. This is because now they will have to consider whether the trivial actions of their employees have to potential to humiliate, intimidate or distress other employees. This could potentially encompass all sorts of behaviour including, for example, not providing an employee with enough work or setting tasks that are below an employee’s skill level.

Watch this space for updates on the finalised definition…!

  • amended to accurately reflect negotiated terms; and
  • carefully reading the contract before it is executed to ensure it reflects the agreed terms.