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Everyone has the right to have a workplace free from bullying. If you’re being bullied at work, there are things you can do to make it stop.
Bullying at work is when a person or a group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards you AND their behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. Some examples of bullying are:
Workplace bullying can happen in lots of different ways, including face-to-face, on the company intranet or over the phone, via social media email or SMS. It can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.
Bullying doesn’t have to just be making fun of you or being mean to you. Sometimes it can be stuff that is hurtful but less obvious like:
If you are under 18, bullying might also be child abuse. For more information about child abuse see our page on Child Abuse.
If the bullying was violent, it might also be a crime and you should report it to the police. This includes sexual or indecent assault, physical assaults, threatening you or damaging your property. If the bullying involved violence, you may also be able to claim victims’ compensation. See our Victims of Crime page for more information.
If the bullying involved mental harm and you had to take time off, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation. If this has happened, you need to tell your employer as soon as possible and make sure they tell their insurer.
If you think you may have been bullied at work and would like some advice, contact us here.
Some behaviour that feels humiliating, threatening, intimidating or demeaning is not against the law. For example:
Harassment is any form of behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening AND that is done because you have a particular personal characteristic, like being gay, or coming from another country, or having a disability. If someone has bullied you at work because of reasons like this, please see our factsheet on discrimination for more information. If you are being sexually harassed, please see our page on sexual harassment
Workplace discrimination is when someone treats you differently (not just meanly) at work based on a particular personal characteristic, like being pregnant or having a disability. For example, it would be discrimination if you don’t get a promotion just because you have a disability. Check out our factsheet on workplace discrimination if you want to know more.
Bullying can also be harassment or discrimination if you have been treated less favourably because of a personal characteristic that is protected under anti-discrimination laws.
The law says that employers must protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Because workplace bullying may harm the health, safety and welfare of employees your boss has to ensure that you are not bullied at work. If your employer is not stopping the bullying, you have a right to speak up. You can follow the steps in the next section to get the bullying to stop.
It’s also a good idea to keep a diary to record examples of incidents. This makes it easier to show or prove specific examples of the bullying behaviour. Keep any related communications including abusive letters, screenshots of social media, SMS or emails.
If you decide to speak to someone at work, we encourage you to:
The Fair Work Commission has a free online training course on ‘Difficult Conversations in the Workplace’ here.
If your employer does not do anything about the bullying, then it may be time to consider further action.
If you would like to speak to someone about what is going at work, you can talk to someone from Headspace or Kids Helpline. They are a free and confidential counselling service for people under 25. You can call them or chat online at:
If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice here. You can also contact us on 1800 953 673 (8:30am – 4:30pm, Monday to Friday).
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