Workplace bullying is a serious issue. In some instances, bullying is a criminal offence and can be reported directly to the police.
- Victims of workplace bullying can experience:
- Diminished self confidence
- Poorer performance at work
- Severe stress, anxiety and depression
- Negatively affected personal relationships and other non-work commitments
- Physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, back pain and insomnia
What is workplace bullying?
Under the national anti-bullying laws, a worker is bullied if:
- A person or group of people act unreasonably towards them; and
- This behaviour poses a risk to health and safety.
There are similar laws in each state and territory to cover workers who aren’t captured under the national laws.
Examples of workplace bullying are:
- Repeated remarks that attack your work or you as a person
- Sexual harassment including unwanted physical contact, sexual remarks and requests, sending sexually explicit material
- Threatening or attacking you with a weapon or object that can be turned into a weapon
- Psychological harassment and intimidation including ganging up on you and playing mind games
- Hazing or initiation rituals
- Touching you aggressively in the workplace including pushing, shoving, tripping you up
- Stopping you from doing your job or excluding you from work related events
- Deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to cause you difficulty and angst
- Deliberately withholding information that is crucial to you doing your job
- Giving you tasks that cannot reasonably be completed with the resources or time allocated
- Giving you pointless tasks that are unrelated to your job
What isn’t workplace bullying
Your manager or employer is allowed to take reasonable steps to discipline, demote, retrench or dismiss you.
Who is protected from workplace bullying?
As well as employees, the following people are covered by workplace anti-bullying laws:
- Students gaining work experience
- Interns and volunteers
- Contractors or subcontractors
When workplace bullying is a criminal offence
If the workplace bullying you have experienced includes violence, assault (including sexual) or stalking, you can report it directly to the police.
What’s the difference between workplace bullying and discrimination?
Discrimination occurs when there is an adverse action such as withholding pay, demotion or dismissal on the basis of a protected attribute.
Protected attributes are:
- Sexual orientation
- Skin colour
- Social origin
- National extraction
- Physical or mental disability
- Marital status
- Family or carer’s responsibilities
- Political opinion
However, if you’ve been bullied on the basis of any of these attributes, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission who can investigate your situation and help you resolve the dispute..
What can you do about workplace bullying?
The first step to take if you are being bullied or harassed (or you think it is happening at your work) is to talk to:
- Your supervisor or manager,
- A workplace health and safety representative, or
- The human resources department.
Many workplaces have a formal workplace bullying resolution policy, so you should try to find out if your workplace has one.
If your discussions within your workplace aren’t productive or you feel unable to discuss your situation within your workplace, you can contact:
- Your industry’s union, and/or
- The Fair Work Commission (FWC)
You can take the FWC’s eligibility quiz to find out whether you’re covered by the national workplace anti-bullying laws. If the national laws don’t cover you, there are laws in your State or Territory that protect you.
You can contact your State or Territory’s relevant workplace health and safety office:
- Australian Capital Territory: WorkSafe ACT
- New South Wales: WorkCover NSW
- Northern Territory: WorkSafe NT
- South Australia: SafeWork SA
- Victoria: WorkSafe Vic
- Queensland: WorkCover Qld
- Western Australia: WorkSafe WA
- Tasmania: WorkSafe Tas