Australian Workplaces Protecting Against Bullying

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Australian Workplaces Protecting Against Bullying

Australia’s bullying laws are designed to protect businesses and encourage self-regulation of workplace bullying using organisational Work Health and Safety (WHS) policy. It is not the role of Australian Governments to supervise interpersonal and management relationships within private organisations. The core philosophy of the primary duty of care under WHS law is to protect workers from injury. However, the legislative protection to businesses is so complete that the only real motivation to protect workers against workplace bullying is to care for their welfare.

Under the exemption for Reasonable Management Action, a business is protected from work practices that cause bullying if they follow their policies and guidelines. The courts have confirmed that it does not matter if those policies and guidelines pose a risk to health and safety, an organisation is still protected if those policies are followed. The protection extends to workers compensation where Reasonable Management Action will exclude a worker suffering from a psychological injury from receiving compensation where it is caused by bullying. This means that businesses will not face increased workers compensation premiums for bullying resulting from their reasonable management action.

While this may look un-Australian on the surface, the responsibility should rest with Australian business owners, managers and workers to decide what an Australian workplace should look like when we interact with each other. If we believe we should respect others, take responsibility for our actions and show fairness to all, we can do that without any Government intervention. Standard WHS practices can help produce integrated Human Resource (HR) policies and employment contracts to create a Psychological Safety Culture in conjunction with organisation-wide Positive Organisational Behaviour, conflict management and emotional awareness.

The new generations of Australian’s are way ahead of us on positive group behaviour. In pre-school, they are taught to recognise emotions in facial expressions and tell others to: “stop it, I don’t like it!” if they receive unwanted negative behaviour. In primary and secondary schools, they know how to relate to others using Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) and other social and emotional learning skills. It’s now our responsibility to develop Positive Organisational Behaviour policies and skills to stop workplace bullying before it can inflict psychological harm on our children as they enter the workforce.

Kevin Gilmore-Burrell LLB MBA

© Empathyse ® Anti-bullying Consulting 2020

Creating Positive Workplaces