March 29, 2018 | By Charlene Woodbine, Vitil
What is workplace bullying?
The term workplace bullying is often used loosely amongst employees to refer to any disagreement or misunderstanding between employees.
However, workplace bullying is defined very specifically to refer to behaviour that:
- is inappropriate (this includes direct and indirect forms of bullying)
- causes an adverse impact on an employee's health and safety
- is repeated
What should a Perth business do with isolated incidences?
An isolated incident of inappropriate behaviour does not meet the strict definition of workplace bullying as no pattern of repeated behaviour can be established. However, an employer has a duty of care and an obligation to investigate all incidences even if they are not deemed to be workplace bullying.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 requires employers to ensure that the working environment is a safe one in which employees are not exposed to hazards. Essentially, workplace bullying should be treated as a hazard. Therefore, it is critical that Perth businesses have a framework for managing workplace bullying and other grievances. Policies and procedures can ensure that any complaints are investigated promptly, thoroughly and appropriate outcomes are reached.
The framework for investigating workplace bullying should be founded on the principles of procedural fairness, which essentially means that:
- all parties are given sufficient detail in relation to the complaint that they are able to provide their response
- all parties must be given the opportunity to provide their response to a matter that may affect them
- the decision maker does not form a view prior to giving consideration to all responses
- the employee must be advised of any rights of appeal that they may have against a decision made
A failure to do so may expose a business to potential claims by the employee and an investigation by Workcover. Following a framework and process will not only ensure that the matter is investigated thoroughly but will also assist in mitigating risk of any future claims or potential investigation by Workcover.
If you are faced with a situation in relation to workplace bullying, we would strongly encourage you to seek advice from a HR professional in relation to investigating matters thoroughly and ensuring that you have the appropriate policies and procedures in place. Vitil HR's professionals are happy to provide over the phone advice in relation to more specific situations.
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