Workplace bullying -another layer of workplace regulation

AFEI is concerned at the continuing push for new and additional workplace regulation. The workplace is a convenient target for regulators to purport to find solutions for any range of social ills and place greater impediments on employers to effectively and productively manage their workplaces.

In recent years government and union initiatives have resulted in employers having deal with employee issues involving drug and alcohol addiction, fitness, obesity, fatigue, domestic violence, mental health etc. This has created greater risks for employers in managing poorly performing or difficult workers with increased litigation and workers compensation claims.

Additional legislation to regulate bullying at work through amendments to the Fair Work Act  2009  have added yet another layer of complexity to workplace compliance requirements.Work health and safety regulators have published codes and guidance material which direct duty holders as to how they identify and manage risks which may be construed as bullying or providing a risk that bullying may occur ( eg hours of work, work organisation, amount of work).

This is now an area of extensive and onerous regulation where employers can face litigation for actions categorised as workplace bullying under a wide range of law and where employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.

The difficulty for employers in managing bullying arises with the breadth of its defintion -  with workers claiming they are being bullied because they are subject to performance management, unhappy about their hours, workload, work organisation, management style, any workplace change, their co – workers, inadequate consultation and resources and so on.

Despite the legislation providing employers with the ostensible defence of a "reasonable management action" they remain subject to the onerous and resource intensive processess of investigating claims and defending their actions before the courts.