26th May, 2014

New law puts the spotlight on workplace bullying

Since the first of January 2014, workplace bullying has become a much bigger hazard for small businesses.

The changes to the Fair Work Act have increased the protections afforded to employees and raised the importance of preventing workplace bullying.

Possible examples of workplace bullying include abusive, insulting or offensive language, unjustified criticisms, and spreading misinformation or malicious rumours about other employees.

Through the new legislation, the Fair Work Commission now has the power to make businesses change their practices in order to prevent any of this behaviour. 

Failure to comply with the Fair Work Commission's findings can result in hefty penalties of up to $10,200 for individuals and $51,000 for businesses. If you run a small business, these penalties could seriously dent your company finances and even cause your company to close. 

In the first month of the legislation, the Commission reported it had been informed of 44 cases of workplace bullying which it had begun investigating.

How can employers prevent work place bullying?

Firstly, businesses need to make sure they have read and understood the new legislation and its potential impact. Taking the time now to prepare your business for any potential legal action will help.

Management insurance is any company's best protection against claims of workplace bullying. Even in unfounded cases, businesses can loses thousands of dollars proving their innocence.

Instituting an anti-harassment policy will also help prevent instances of bullying occurring. By ensuring that every employee is aware of the risks and penalties that come from workplace bullying, it will be possible to limit the impact on your business. Having in-house mechanisms to cope with bullying will decrease the likelihood of employees taking their grievances to a higher body like the Fair Work Commission.

This new legislation does not have to be a risk for businesses. By preparing beforehand and getting your insurance right, it is possible to prevent workplace bullying from harming the fortunes of your SME.

Author: Murray Bruce