Do you have a question about work? For free and confidential legal advice you can ask us a question here or contact us on 1800 953 673 (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday).
Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety, including the mental and physical health of workers.
Examples of workplace bullying include behaving aggressively, teasing or playing practical jokes, or making unreasonable work demands.
Some behaviour that feels humiliating, threatening, intimidating or demeaning is not against the law. Reasonable management action done in a reasonable manner is not defined as workplace bullying. For example:
Harassment in the workplace is any unwanted behaviour that offends or humiliates you, makes work a hostile environment and is targeted at you because of a personal characteristic.
Yes. The law says that employers must provide a safe workplace. Workplace bullying harms the health, safety and welfare of employees so employers have a legal duty to ensure that you are not bullied at work. If you are being bullied at work, we have set out the steps to get the bullying to stop below.
While the focus of laws against workplace bullying is to protect workers who are experiencing workplace bullying in their current employment, there are also some specific types of bullying behaviours that would be illegal under the criminal law:
You can find more information about workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination here.
Everyone has a right to a workplace free from bullying and harassment. There are options available to you if you have experienced bullying or harassment at work, however the best option may depend on what type of behaviour you have experienced, as well as where you live.
If you are actively experiencing workplace bullying, we usually recommend that you –
Employees have a workplace right to make a complaint or enquiry in relation to their employment when making a bullying complaint in accordance with workplace policies. The Fair Work Act 2009 protects workers from suffering adverse actions (such as being dismissed or demoted) because they have exercised a workplace right. You can find more information about legal protections for workers exercising workplace rights here.
Fair Work Commission Stop Bullying Application
If an employer is unable or unwilling to prevent workplace bullying, a worker who reasonably believes they are being bullied at work can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop workplace bullying. The Fair Work Commission cannot impose financial penalties or financial compensation to complainants for workplace bullying. The Fair Work Commission cannot make any orders relating to bullying in previous employment.
The Stop Bullying application form, and information on how to fill it out, can be found here.
You do not need to tell your employer if you have lodged this application; the Fair Work Commission will do that.
If you are employed by a state entity, or a not-for-profit – e.g., NSW Health or the WA government, you may not be able to use this application, but there are still options available for you. Please click here to learn what you can do depending on what state you live in.
Safe Work/Worksafe Authority
A worker who is experiencing bullying or other psychosocial hazards in their workplace may raise the issue with their State/Territory Work Health and Safety Authority – for example workers in NSW can complete a Request for Service Form.
You can find more information here.
If the bullying involved mental or physical harm and you needed to take time off work and/or required medical treatment, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation. You will need to firstly talk with a doctor to obtain a work-cover certificate, and let your employer know as soon as possible so they can notify their insurer.
Bullying and harassment are different to discrimination, as well as specific types of harassment, including sexual harassment.
You can also find more information from the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1300 656 419 or (02) 9284 9888(02) or visit their website.
|Navigating this information may seem overwhelming. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing workplace bullying and don’t know what to do, contact us here for free legal advice.
If you would like to speak to someone about what is going on at work, we encourage you to contact one of the services we’ve listed below.
eHeadspace offer free counselling to people aged 12 – 25. You can call them on 1800 650 890 (from 9am to 1am Australian Eastern Standard Time. You can also email or chat them online here.
If you prefer to talk to someone face-to-face, you can make an appointment to visit a Headspace centre. You can find your local centre here.
You can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for free and private counselling (available 24 hours a day, but there can be a wait to get through). They are happy to talk to young people between the ages of 5-25 years about anything that’s troubling them. You can also email them or chat online here.
Beyond Blue provides free telephone and online counselling to anyone in Australia. You can call a counsellor on 1300 22 4636 or chat online here.
If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.Get help now