The harmonisation of WHS legislation throughout Australia is
affecting definitions and requirements for the handling of bullying and
A number of jurisdictions have now developed Codes of Practice for preventing and responding to bullying behaviour.
The move towards national bullying laws took a step closer this month
with the document developed by the NSW and Victorian WorkSafe
organisations on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying being adopted as a
Code of Practice in the ACT.
The Code has legal force and can be used by regulators wanting to prosecute.
The ACT's Code of Practice on the prevention of workplace bullying is
an essential tool for helping employers determine whether to deal with
bullying complaints in-house or refer them to an external investigator,
the Territory's Work Safety Commissioner says.
"I think the Code of Practice is absolutely essential; it clarifies
for businesses exactly what they need to do to meet their safety duty in
respect of bullying," says Mark McCabe told OHS Alert.
"In particular, it spells out how to respond to bullying claims when
they arise. Without a Code there's a fair bit of ambiguity about how you
might do that. the Code spells out in what circumstances you might
investigate a case rather than just go to mediation, and it talks about
how you might do that independently."
The Code clarified circumstances that were so serious that "someone
should be held accountable" and mediation would be inadequate" McCabe
He said the Territory would consider replacing its Code of Practice
on the prevention of bullying (which was based on NSW and Victorian
guidance material) with the model national Code of Practice when it was
finalised by Safe Work Australia.
The Code is clear that "setting performance goals, standards and
deadlines", "implementing organizational changes" and "informing a
worker about unsatisfactory work performance" are not classified as
bullying, although "organizational change" and "negative management
styles" are classified as bullying "risk factors".
Meanwhile, the national Safe Work Australia model Code of Practice
has been a battleground between unions and employer groups. The ACTU
wants single incidents of behaviour able to be classified as bullying
and the right for union representatives to investigate claims of
Employer groups are worried about "systems of work" being classified
as a bullying risk factor as well as the individual perceptions and
biases of investigators dealing with complicated situations.
Employer groups are also concerned about extra costs to employers
associated with investigations, appeals, counselling and mediation, even
when no allegation is proven.
The national Preventing and Responding to Bullying draft model Code
of Practice is currently being revised in line with comment feedback and
it is envisaged that materials will be finalized in the second half of
Mr John Boardman iHR Australia's Director Workplace Relations said
"with the ever increasing incidences of bullying allegations and the
growing risk of legal sanctions, getting your performance management
processes absolutely right, including the training of line managers, is
essential for any business".
Source: http://ihraustralia.net/index.php/news-and-opinion/162-nowhere-to-hide-national-anti-bullying-laws-take-another-step on 27 June 2012