Workplace Bullying pt. 2: 7 simple tips for employers to combat workplace bullying
Have you ever wondered when speaking to an employee, how that employee might respond to what you are saying? Have you ever seen or heard interactions between employees in the workplace and wondered or worried about whether they are harmless, or potentially harmful? If these questions have ever played on your mind, you are not alone. The next important step for you as an employer is to think about how you will deal with an issue of bullying if it raises its ugly head in your workplace.
What are the costs if you don’t? Aside from a loss of productivity and the financial impact of absenteeism and turnover, you could also be liable for any injury or illness caused to an employee by bullying that wasn’t adequately dealt with correctly in you capacity as employer.
In the realms of employment law the best way to protect your workplace is to get on the front foot. By being prepared and having processes implemented within your workplace you will find that you will be adequately prepared to deal with a workplace bullying claim or complaint from an employee.
1. Get to know your responsibilities under the Fair Work Act.
Become familiar with the workplace bullying provisions of the Act and the penalties that can be imposed for non-compliance. If you are having trouble, it is worth contacting a solicitor for advice.
2. Understand what behaviours and actions can constitute workplace bullying.
This is not as straightforward as you might think. The first article in this series, Workplace bullying vs poor behaviour: Can you tell the difference? deals exclusively with this.
3. Understand what are reasonable management actions performed in a reasonable way.
Reasonable management action that is taken in a reasonable way by an employer or manager with employees is not considered to be workplace bullying. It is crucial that all persons in positions of management within your business are on the same page and understand. Training on workplace bullying policies with management and other staff is recommended to ensure that everyone is aware of what behaviour is and isn’t appropriate.
4. Have a written policy regarding bullying in place.
Make sure it clearly states that bullying is unacceptable, and this is echoed in the attitude of management. We can assist in drawing up a policy for your workplace should you not have one.
5. Have a clear cut procedure for addressing allegations of workplace bullying.
Treat any complaint with the utmost seriousness, even if you do not see it as such.
6. Ensure that workplace bullying complaints are handled in a prompt and fair manner.
Be quick to handle the issue before it escalates and ensure the process is transparent.
7. Monitor behaviour patterns of employees and keep an eye out for trouble
The easiest way to deal with a bullying complaint is to prevent it. Communicate with your staff openly and often about your workplace’s zero-tolerance for bullying, and make sure you live through example.
Case Study: Worker bullied by a manager after returning from maternity leave
You may be sitting there thinking that bullying and harassment affects other workplaces, but it would never be an issue in your own. To take this line of thought may be to the serious detriment of your employees’ wellbeing, and to your own expense as an employer!
The recent case of Keegan v Sussan Corporation (Aust.) Pty Ltd highlights the severity the Court places on appropriate employer action for workplace bullying. The case involved an employee who returned from maternity leave and was subjected to 11 days of bullying treatment by their direct manager.
The actions involved:
- Excluding the employee from business discussions;
- Ignoring her offers of assistance;
- Unwarranted criticisms of her part and present performance;
- Repeatedly speaking in an ‘aggressive and nasty’ tone; and
- Creating an ‘isolating atmosphere’ in which the manager was generally friendlier to other staff.
The employee complained to her employer about the behaviours of the manager to which the employer did not adequately respond or investigate. As a result the employee suffered a psychological injury and left employment. The Court found that the employer had been negligent in their handling of the bullying complaint and ordered for the employer to make payment to the employee in the amount of $240,000.00.
How we can help
Here at Streten Masons Lawyers we are able to assist you to understand the obligations and responsibilities that employers are required to comply with in dealing with bullying and harassment claims. Please contact our office if you require any assistance.
This is the second article in a two-part series. Read part 1 here
Craig Mason – Director