Employers will soon have nowhere to hide when it comes to investigating complaints of workplace bullying
Under proposed new bullying laws, employers could find themselves hauled before the Fair Work Commission in short order and forced to explain their actions.
Employers will be faced with a situation where an aggrieved employee, instead of trying to sort their grievance out ‘in-house’ in line with internal HR procedures, will be able to take their concerns straight to the Fair Work Commission (FWC). Employers who are caught unawares may find their ‘dirty laundry’ being aired before the FWC.
Once the proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) become law, any employee who believes that he/she was bullied will be able to bring a claim with the FWC. The FWC will be required to deal with any workplace bullying application as a matter of priority including listing the matter for consideration within 14 days of a complaint being filed.
“Workplace bullying” is expected to be defined as “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety”.
The new laws are expected to commence as soon as 1 July 2013.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers must be even more vigilant about what goes on in their workplace.
If an employer receives a report or suspects workplace bullying, it has no real choice other than to conduct an HR investigation.
An employer who fails to investigate suspected workplace bullying will struggle to defend a claim of bullying by an employee.