Since our article about initial numbers of workplace bullying claims lodged, the Fair Work Commission has issued a report which gives some insight into how the new jurisdiction is operating.
The FWC’s report includes a breakdown of the applications received during the first quarter of 2014.
During the first quarter period a total of 151 applications for an order to stop bullying at work were received by the FWC.
Each application was dealt with by the FWC within the prescribed 14 day period.
Of these 151 applications, the finalised matters were as following:
- 23 withdrawn early in the case management process
- 5 withdrawn prior to Conference or Hearing
- 16 resolved during course of proceedings. Those include resolution by way of a listed conference, hearing, mention or mediation before a FWC Commissioner or listed mediation by a staff member
- 4 withdrawn after a Conference or Hearing but before a decision was issued
- 8 finalised by a decision
Of those finalised by a decision, 7 were dismissed for varying reasons under the FW Act and 1 application resulted in an order to stop bullying made.
Amount of applications
In total 133 applications were made by an employee, 4 by a contractor or subcontractor, 3 by an employee of a labor hire company and 1 each by an apprentice or trainee and volunteer.
Who was affected?
All business sizes and industries were affected by the new jurisdiction, ranging from employers with less than 15 workers, through to businesses with 100+ employees.
The clerical industry had the most claims with 23 applications, 13 in retail, 8 in banking and finance, 11 in health and not far behind was education with 10.
The vast majority of applications were made against managers with 109 applications being submitted, 27 against an individual worker, 20 about a group of workers and 3 made against a subordinate.
Since the commencement of the workplace bullying laws, commentary about the laws has ranged from ‘end of the world’ style predictions to dismissive ‘storm in a teacup’ opinions.
With any new jurisdiction there is an initial learning cycle where stakeholders become more familiar with new laws and their practical application.
It is still early days so employers should not take the FWC’s statistics lightly.
What is clear is that employees are aware of the jurisdiction and are using it.
The fact that less than 5% of applications were dismissed is a telling statistic.
The statistics show that – for employers – size does not matter when it comes to the risk of being faced with a claim, with businesses of all sizes being faced with claims.
Minimising the risk of workplace bullying claims
As with most HR issues, prevention is always better than the cure.
Employees must understand workplace behavioural expectations and what is, and is not, considered workplace bullying
With 109 of the 133 workplace applications being made about a manager, it is essential that managers and supervisors are appropriately trained as to what does and does not constitute ‘reasonable management action’.
Lastly, managers also need to know how to investigate workplace bullying when a complaint is made.
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 Source: Fair Work Commission Anti-bullying report Jan-Mar 2014, 23 April 2014