Julia Collins, Safe Work Australia - Workplace Bullying - A National Perspective


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Julia Collins, Branch Manager, WHS and Corporate Governance, Safe Work Australia delivered this presentation at the Inaugural Workplace Bullying Conference. This event brings together HR, WHS Managers, Workplace Psychologists and Academics to discuss policy and practices for combatting workplace bullying.

Find out more at http://www.informa.com.au/workplacebullying_13

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Julia Collins, Safe Work Australia - Workplace Bullying - A National Perspective

  1. 1. Workplace Bullying: A national perspective Julia Collins
  2. 2. How serious is workplace bullying? Australian Workplace Barometer Report • Depression costs Australian employers approximately $8 billion per annum and $693 million per annum of this is due to job strain and bullying. • Levels of bullying are at 6.8 %, substantially higher than international rates • Women report significantly higher levels of bullying and for significantly longer periods of time. • Estimated bullying prevalence rates vary between 3.5 % and 21 % of the Australian workforce (Dollard et al 2012) • Estimated costs to the Australian economy varied between $6 billion to $36 billion in 2000 (Productivity Commission 2010). 2
  3. 3. Mental stress claims (2008–09 to 2010–11) Work pressure Work related harassment &/or workplace bullying Exposure to workplace or occupational violence Exposure to traumatic event Other harassment Suicide or attempted suicide Other mental stress factors 0 5 10 15 20 25 Percentage of all accepted mental stress claims 30 35 3
  4. 4. Developments to address workplace bullying • Victoria – Brodie’s law (May 2011) • Queensland – Ministerial Reference Group report (December 2011) • Commonwealth – Parliamentary Inquiry (November 2012) • Harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws – model Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice • Revised draft Code of Practice: Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying - now a Guide • Guide for workers • Fair Work Act amendments 4
  5. 5. Workplace bullying is a WHS issue – A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty of care under the WHS Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. – ‘Health’ is defined in the WHS Act as both physical and psychological health. – Duties of care are not defined by the nature of employment relationship – captures new and evolving work arrangements – Protects all types of ‘workers’ – No specific regulations for workplace bullying 5
  6. 6. Duty of workers and others • Workers – Must take reasonable care for themselves and others – Comply with any reasonable instruction – Co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedure • Other persons at the workplace – Duty similar to workers Who is a worker? A person who carries out work for a person conducting a business or undertaking in any capacity, including as: • Employee • Contractor or subcontractor • Employee of a contractor or subcontractor • Employee of labour hire company • Outworker • Apprentice or trainee • Student on work experience • Volunteer 6
  7. 7. Key issues • Knowing what workplace bullying is and is not • Multiple agencies involved – uncertainty for people subjected to bullying • Lack of early intervention in a workplace conflict – prevent one-off incidents escalating into bullying • Enforcement by WHS regulators difficult – – – – Different definition of bullying used by regulator and the community Managing the expectations of complainants Inspectors lack specialised training Evidentiary difficulties • Need for change in workplace culture, attitudes and behaviours 7
  8. 8. What is workplace bullying? Nationally consistent definition needed: • Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. • Victoria: Workplace bullying is characterised by persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to health and safety. • ‘Bullying’ versus ‘ill-treatment’ – unreasonable behaviour, incivility and disrespect, violence 8
  9. 9. What is not workplace bullying? • Reasonable management action undertaken in a reasonable way – must be lawful and fair – Large number of complaints involve performance management issues • Discrimination • Sexual harassment • Workplace conflict 9
  10. 10. Key issues raised in public comment • • • • • • • • • Code of Practice or Guide? Use of social media and cyber bullying Group bullying, bullying of and by third parties Difference between discrimination, harassment and workplace bullying Issues resolution process not suitable Balancing confidentiality and transparency when responding to reports Role of HSRs, WHS regulators Role of Fair Work Commission Needs of small business 10
  11. 11. Prevention • Risk management: identify hazard control the risk review control measures • Set the standard of workplace behaviour – code of conduct, workplace bullying policy • Design safe systems of work • Develop productive and respectful workplace relationships • Reporting and response procedures • Training workers, including managers 11
  12. 12. Response – Early intervention • Is the behaviour bullying or not? • Does the situation warrant measures to minimise the risk of ongoing harm? • Do I have a clear understanding of the issues? • Do I need additional information or assistance? • Can the matter be safely resolved between the parties or at a team level? • Should the matter to be progressed to an investigation? A person can self-manage the situation or seek assistance of another person to raise the issue. 12
  13. 13. Response Principles for responding to reports of workplace bullying • • • • • • • • • Act promptly Treat all matters seriously Maintain confidentiality Ensure procedural fairness Be neutral Support all parties Do not victimise Communicate process and outcomes Keep records Investigation for serious or complex allegations • Actions after an investigation – Reviewing systems of work 13
  14. 14. Other Safe Work Australia activities Guidance Report annually on emerging trends Undertake research Training for managers and HSRs Recognise good practice 14
  15. 15. Workplace Bullying We just want it to 15
  16. 16. Further Information www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au 16