Addressing Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and harassment can have a detrimental effect on workplace culture, productivity, and overall success. It remains a prevalent issue in many Australian workplaces and according to a 2018 survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in three workers reported experiencing workplace harassment in the past year. It can cause physical and emotional harm to employees, leading to increased absenteeism, decreased morale, and ultimately, turnover. As an employer, it is important to create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees. The implementation of a bullying and harassment procedure will set the foundation for acceptable behaviour in your workplace.
In Australia, the Fair Work Act (2009) and State WHS Acts (2011) outline an employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. This includes addressing workplace bullying and harassment. Employers have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent and manage bullying and harassment in the workplace. Failure to comply with this legislation can result in legal exposure for employers and increased liability.
What is bullying and harassment?
Workplace bullying and harassment refers to any behaviour that makes an employee feel intimidated, offended, or humiliated. This unwanted and uninvited behaviour can be verbal, physical, or psychological and can be committed by a manager, co-worker, or anyone else in the workplace. Examples of bullying and harassment include verbal abuse, physical assault, sexual inuendo, spreading rumors, exclusion from social activities, and discrimination.
Why have a bullying and harassment procedure?
A bullying and harassment procedure is a documented process that outlines how a workplace will address incidents of bullying and harassment. It provides clear guidelines for employees and management on how to identify, report, investigate, and resolve instances of bullying and harassment. A procedure also includes consequences for those who engage in bullying and harassment and outlines how the workplace will investigate allegations and support affected employees.
Implementing a bullying and harassment procedure can have numerous benefits for the workplace. Firstly, it demonstrates to employees that the organisation takes the issue seriously and is committed to creating a safe and respectful work environment. It can increase employee confidence in reporting incidents of bullying and harassment, knowing that there is a clear and fair process in place.
Having a bullying and harassment procedure can also reduce the risk of legal action against the employer. If an issue relating to bullying and harassment is raised and the workplace does not have a procedure in place, the employer may have increased liability for any harm caused. By having a documented procedure, employers can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent and manage incidents of bullying and harassment.
Additionally, a bullying and harassment procedure can improve workplace culture and productivity. Employees who feel safe and respected are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive. It can also create a more inclusive workplace culture, where diversity is celebrated, and everyone is treated with respect.
Contact QSE Consultants to discuss how we can help your organisation develop and implement an effective bullying and harassment policy and procedure.