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We recognise the complexities employers face when dealing with Stop Bullying Orders in the workplace. Our team is equipped to provide specialised advice and representation to effectively address these challenges. We are committed to assisting you through each stage of this intricate process, ensuring you have the support and resources needed to respond appropriately to Stop Bullying Orders.

Karena Nicholls

Karena Nicholls

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What is bullying in the workplace?

Bullying in the workplace, often referred to as workplace bullying, is a pattern of repeated aggressive or harmful behavior directed at an employee or a group of employees by one or more individuals in a workplace setting. This behavior can take various forms and may include:

  • A person or group of people behaving unreasonably towards another employee or group of employees.
  • Behaviour that occurs more than once.
  • Behaviour that creates a risk to the health and safety of others.

It is important to note that not all behaviour that causes anxiety or stress is classified as bullying. If someone makes a comment, but only does it once and it is not repeated, this does not constitute bullying.

Behaviours of bullying?

  • Acting in an aggressive or intimidating manner towards someone.
  • Using abusive or offensive language.
  • Mocking or humiliating someone.
  • Holding ‘initiation ceremonies’.

Bullying can also include:

  • Teasing or playing jokes.
  • Leaving employees out of work-related events.
  • Giving someone too much or too little work.
  • Giving someone work above or below their skill level.
  • Not giving someone information that they need to do their job.

If an employee approaches their employer and advises them that they believe they are being bullied, employers should take action immediately in terms of investigating the complaint.  If found to be a valid complaint, the employer should take immediate reasonable steps to address the behaviour.

In the first instance, an employee may approach an employer to try and resolve the issue internally. If the employee does not consider this to be an option, they may choose to make an application to the Fair Work Commission.

If an employee submits an application to the Fair Work Commission, a copy of the application will be sent to the employer and also any other employees named as the alleged bullies. The Commission will seek a response within 7 days of being served the application.

Responding to the Application

Responding to an application or complaint of workplace bullying as an employer is a critical and sensitive process. It is essential to handle the matter with care, professionalism, and a commitment to resolving the issue promptly. As an employer, you are receiving an application because:

  • You are the employer named in the application.
  • An employee believes someone bullied them at work.
  • The employee has applied for an order to stop bullying.
  • The Commission has not decided the case.

As an employer, the Commission is requesting your version of events. You must respond to the application within 7 days of being served, even if challenging it.

Challenging an Application

If you do not think the employee has been bullied at work, you should advise the Commission. Reasons bullying may not have occurred include:

  • The behaviour in the application does not meet the legal definition of bullying.
  • The employees are not covered by the national workplace bullying laws.
  • The action you took was reasonable management action, carried out in a reasonable manner.
  • The application is frivolous or vexatious;
  • The application has no reasonable chance of success

Reasonable Management Decision

As an employer, you can take reasonable management action to:

  • Help an employee improve their work.
  • Address poor performance or behaviour.

It is reasonable management action for an employer to:

  • Commence a performance management process.
  • Take disciplinary action for misconduct.
  • Tell an employee that their performance is not satisfactory.
  • Tell an employee their behaviour at work is not appropriate.
  • Ask an employee to perform reasonable duties as part of their job.
  • Take action to maintain reasonable workplace standards.

As an employer, you should have policies and procedures in place to assist with defining bullying and ensuring that behaviour seen as bullying is addressed promptly and appropriately.

Next Steps

  • The next steps may include a voluntary conciliation meeting. If an agreement can be made at conciliation, the case will conclude.
  • Most cases go straight to a Commission Member for a resolution via a conference or formal hearing.
  • Following a hearing, the Commission Member will reach a decision regarding the outcome and issue a decision or Order.
  • The Commission aims to finalise cases within 16 weeks of receiving the application.
  • Parties have the opportunity to appeal if they believe an error has been made with the decision or Order. An appeal can, however, only be made with the permission of the Commission.

Potential Outcomes

Outcomes that can stem from a Stop Bullying Order include:

  • Changes in work arrangements including lines of reporting
  • Issuing an apology
  • Issuing a reference or statement of service
  • Commitments as an employer to:
    • Investigate a complaint or engage an external investigator.
    • Provide training for staff on bullying, workplace safety and other relevant matters.
    • Review and update its policies and procedures.
    • Improve transparency in reporting complaints about sexual harassment.
    • Conduct a safety risk assessment for the workplace.
  • The applicant withdrawing the complaint.

Note that compensation or any other payment of money cannot be ordered.

What to Expect with Coutts Lawyers

Step 1: Initial Contact

Reach out to Coutts Lawyers via our website, phone, or in person. Briefly describe your matter.

Step 2: Consultation Appointment

Schedule and attend a meeting with a Coutts lawyer / Conveyancer to discuss the specifics of your matter and desired outcomes.

Step 3: Information & Legal Advice

Share all related documents and information. Your lawyer / Conveyancer will review everything, clarify aspects as needed, and then advise on the best action course.

Step 4: Action Plan Development

Based on the advice, an appropriate action plan will be formulated. This may involve communication, documentation processes, or further legal steps.

Step 5: Implementation

Execute the action plan, addressing a range of legal scenarios as necessary.

Step 6: Resolution & Closure

Navigate towards a resolution, with the path determined by the nature of the matter. Your Lawyer / Conveyancer will outline any final actions or considerations.

Book Your Stop Bullying Orders Consultation Now

Introducing Karena

Your Compassionate Lawyer

Meet Karena, a Partner at Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers, and the head of our esteemed Injury Compensation and Employment Law teams. With over two decades of experience in the field of Insurance Law, Karena’s passion, dedication, and client-focused approach have established her as a leading authority in compensation and employment law.

Karena Nicholls - Employment Expert
Karena Nicholls - Employment Expert

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Stop Bullying Orders FAQ’s

Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions directed towards an employee or a group of employees that risk their health and safety. It can include behaviours that intimidate, offend, degrade, or humiliate a worker, often in front of others. Bullying behaviours might include verbal abuse, spreading rumours, isolation, or making impossible demands. It’s important to note that workplace bullying is distinct from legitimate feedback or reasonable management actions conducted in a fair way.

Generally, a single incident of inappropriate behaviour may not be considered bullying. Bullying typically involves a pattern of behaviour repeated over time. However, a single incident can still be serious and should not be ignored, especially if it’s particularly severe or has the potential to escalate into repeated bullying. In some cases, one-off incidents can also contribute to a workplace culture that tolerates bullying.

If you’re experiencing bullying in the workplace, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Document the Incidents: Keep a record of all incidents, including dates, times, what was said or done, and any witnesses. Documentation can provide evidence if you decide to make a formal complaint.
  2. Review Company Policy: Many organisations have policies on workplace behaviour and procedures for handling bullying. Familiarise yourself with these policies.
  3. Seek Support: Talk to someone you trust, like a colleague, a manager, or a human resources representative. You can also seek support from a counsellor or an external advisor.
  4. Formal Complaint: If informal attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful, consider making a formal complaint according to your organisation’s procedures.
  5. External Assistance: If the situation doesn’t improve or if your workplace doesn’t have adequate procedures to deal with bullying, you may seek advice from an external body like a union representative, legal advisor, or a government agency specialising in employment issues.

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