Treat others as you would have them treat you
Does anyone really doubt that this is a reasonably obvious rule for getting on with our fellow passengers on the planet Earth journey?
Sadly, bullying behaviour is still a fact of life. It occurs everywhere from schoolyards and playgrounds, to volunteer groups, committees and the workplace. Invariably, the perpetrator either in fact or perception, has:
- An advantage in physical strength
- A dominant personality capable of intimidation
- A position of authority, either real or assumed
- A belief in their own superiority
There may well be myriad other factors, and sometimes a group will exert intimidating behaviour – thus inflating their own feelings of control and power, as they belittle, intimidate and bully their unfortunate victims.
In the context of this article:
Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety.
Those are not our words, but those of the Fair Work Act 2009, and in whatever guise, such behaviour is unacceptable.
He/she who is silent is assumed to consent
It may be assumed that workplace bullying is of necessity, face to face, but this is incorrect. Bullying and intimidation can equally occur via email, phone calls, or social media.
Examples of such behaviour include, but are not limited to:
- Setting unrealistic and/or constantly changing work demands
- Withholding necessary resources
- Using abusive, offensive, or belittling language
- Spreading rumours or inaccurate information
- Excluding an employee from normal interactions
- Subjecting an employee to constant criticism or complaint about work done
The recipients of such intimidation may well be in a position of anxiety, stress or depression, so it can be difficult to view things objectively and be proactive. Nevertheless, it is vital that a timeline of events is recorded, including pertinent emails, messages, or screenshots of social media posts. It is also vital that proper and appropriate medical assessment and treatment is sought. The obvious primary reason is to assist the recipient during this time, but likewise, it is important to have a professional diagnosis available as part of the timeline of evidence.
In the first instance, a bullied employee should report the issue and seek help from their supervisor. Employers, or people in positions of authority, are required as a part of their duty of care to take such reports seriously and take action to resolve the issue. Doing nothing is not an option. Remaining silent is considered to be tacit approval.
A recipient can also make a report to Safework NSW, the administrators of the Fair Work Act, and if they deem it justified, are required to initiate action within 14 days. Safework may decide to issue an order to alleviate the situation, but they do not issue penalties or provide compensation. However, such an order does not preclude an employee from making a subsequent claim for workers compensation.
Workplace bullying – don’t accept it
Workplace bullying may take many forms, from blatant through to many shades of subtly, yet still powerful in its intimidating and harmful effect. Whatever the version, bullying has no place in the workplace or anywhere. Genuine psychological damage can be done that may severely impact a person’s wellbeing and their ability to perform professionally. Such injury may well deserve compensation.
Professional advice from an experienced workers compensation lawyer is of paramount importance. Workplace Law, we give you the advice you need. It will be easier with sound legal advice from the experts. If you or someone you know has been impacted by topics raised in this blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Owen Hodge Lawyers. We are here to help.