2 IntroductionBullying is not acceptable workplace behaviour and it should not be tolerated in any form.This presentation has been developed to help site leaders and employees identify and deal with bullying in the workplace.It aims to provide practical advice and information on making workplaces safer for everyone concerned.
3 Obligations of site leaders Section 19 of the Occupational Health, Safety & Welfare Act requires that all employers provide a safe working environment. This applies to all areas including the employee’s mental health and well being. It is important, therefore, that site leaders:Promote a clear message that bullying is unacceptable in the workplaceEnsure all employees are aware that the workplace has established anti-bullying procedures, know the process for the reporting and have an understanding that their reports will be dealt with in a proper manner.
4 Obligations of employees As public sector employees we are required to act (and are entitled to be treated by colleagues) in line with the Code of Ethics.
5 Obligations of employees (contd.) Section 21 (1a) of the Occupational Health, Safety & Welfare Act 1986 requires that an employee must take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the health or safety of any other person through an act or omission at work. It is important, therefore, that employees:Comply with site-based preventative actionsReport incidents of workplace bullying to a site leader or an appropriate line manager not implicated in the workplace bullying
6 Obligations of employees (contd.) Refer to the Guide to Resolving Grievances and Complaints for DECS Employees and the DECS Complaint Resolution for Employees - Complaint Quick Reference Guide available at:Use the DECS Complaint Resolution for Employees Procedure for guidance if subjected to bullying.
7 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) The following definition is included in s 55A(1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986:‘Workplace bullying means any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten and which creates a risk to health and safety.’
8 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) Repeated refers to the persistent or ongoing nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of different types of behaviour over timeSystematic refers to having, showing or involving a method or plan. Whether behaviour is systematic or not will depend on an analysis of the circumstances of each individual case with the general guideline in mindRisk to health and safety includes the risk to the emotional, mental or physical health of the person(s) in the workplace.
9 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) Bullying behaviour can be obvious and aggressive.Examples could include:Abusive, insulting or offensive languageBehaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades, including criticism that is delivered with yelling and screamingTeasing or regularly making someone the brunt of practical jokesDisplaying material that is degrading or offendingSpreading gossip, rumours and innuendo of a malicious nature.
10 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) Violence, assault and stalking are extreme forms of bullying that constitute a criminal offence. Such behaviour should be reported directly to the police. Examples include, but are not limited to:Harmful or offensive initiation practicesPhysical assault or unlawful threats.
11 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) Workplace bullying can also be subtle and could include behaviour such as:Deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal workplace activitiesIntruding on a person’s space by pestering, spying or tampering with their personal effects or work equipmentIntimidating a person through inappropriate personal comments, belittling opinions or unjustified criticism.
12 What is workplace bullying? (contd.) Covert behaviour that undermines, treats less favourably or disempowers others, is also bullying, for example:Overloading a person with workSetting timelines that are very difficult to achieve, or constantly changing deadlinesSetting tasks that are unreasonably beyond a person’s abilityIgnoring or isolating a personDeliberately denying access to information, consultation or resourcesUnfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements, such as leave or training.
13 What is not workplace bullying? As stated in s 55A (2) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 bullying behaviour does not include:Reasonable action taken in a reasonable manner by an employer to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss an employeeA decision by an employer, based on reasonable grounds, not to award or provide a promotion, transfer, or benefit in connection with an employee’s employment
14 What is not workplace bullying? (cont.) Reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner by an employer in connection with an employee’s employment; orReasonable action taken in a reasonable manner under an Act affecting an employee.
15 What the law says Occupational Health Safety and Welfare The Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 deals with the general wellbeing of employees at work.The prevention of work related injuries and illness are both matters related to occupational health, safety and welfare s 4 (4)(a)&(b)Incidences of workplace bullying can have an adverse impact on the psychological wellbeing of an employee and prolonged bullying often manifests as a physical health issue for the aggrieved party. As such, matters of workplace bullying fall within the jurisdiction of the Act.
16 What the law says (contd.) Occupational Health Safety and Welfare (cont.)A person who is the subject of bullying behaviour, can make a complaint to SafeWork SA.SafeWork SA will investigate and ensure the employer and employees meet their obligations under the ActAn OHS Inspector does not mediate between the employer and employee or between the bully and bullied person(s)However, the inspector may refer the matter to the IRC for conciliation or mediation.
17 What the law says (contd.) Occupational Health Safety and Welfare (cont.)Employees’ ResponsibilitiesAn employee must take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the health and safety of any other person through an act or omission at work [s 21 (a)].This duty means an employee may actually be in breach of the Act by failing to act where appropriateSuch action does not necessarily mean an employee must directly intervene when they become aware of workplace bullying.
18 What the law says (contd.) Occupational Health Safety and Welfare (cont.)Employees’ Responsibilities (cont.)In some circumstances it may be more prudent to bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate person within the workplaceAll staff should be made aware of their duty toward fellow employees, particularly those staff in positions of authority, whose actions and messages to lower status employees may have a more significant impact than anticipated or intendedThe maximum penalty for breaching s 21 (1a) of the OHS&W Act is a fine of $5000.
19 What the law says (contd.) Occupational Health Safety and Welfare (cont.)Responsibilities of All PersonsWhen a person (who could be an employer or employee) has actual knowledge that another person’s health and safety is being endangered, and is recklessly indifferent as to whether this person is being endangered, that person could be liable for committing an aggravated offence [s 59]
20 What the law says (contd.) Occupational Health Safety and Welfare (cont.)Responsibilities of All Persons (contd.)Offences under this section are considered very serious. They are minor indictable criminal offences, and carry a maximum 5 year term of imprisonment, and/or double the prescribed penaltyWhilst s 59 is likely to be only used in extreme circumstances, it could be actioned if an employer (or employee) was involved or complicit in serious bullying behaviour in the workplace.
21 What the law says (contd.) Equal OpportunitySometimes bullying behaviour involves elements of discrimination.The types of discrimination covered by South Australian law include disability, race, sex, age, sexuality, pregnancy and marital statusEmployees being bullied on any of these grounds can make complaints to the Equal Opportunity Commission, who will try to resolve the complaint privately by conciliationIf settlement cannot be reached, cases can be referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal for a public hearing and decision.
22 What the law says (contd.) Worker’s CompensationThough the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 does not mention bullying specifically, psychiatric disabilities caused by bullying at work, are compensable if, and only if, the employment was a substantial cause of the disability.An employee may make a claim for compensation regarding any compensable injury that arises out of, or in the course of their employment.For more details refer to s 30A of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986.
23 What the law says (contd.) Industrial RelationsThere is no specific provision in the Fair Work Act 1994 that deals with workplace bullying.Where an employee is dismissed or forced to resign as a result of workplace bullying, the worker may be entitled to make a claim under the unfair dismissal provisions of that ActWhere it can be demonstrated that an industrial dispute exists between an employer and employee and all of the necessary requirements of the Act have been met, a notice of industrial dispute can be lodged with the Industrial Relations Commission of South Australia to seek its assistance to resolve the dispute.
24 What the law says (contd.) Criminal LawWorkplace bullying may also amount to criminal behaviour in breach of various criminal legislation.Examples include assault and unlawful threats.
25 Factors and impact of workplace bullying There are a multitude of factors:Power - A person may use their position of power or their physical dominance over those who are perceived to be weaker. The bullying is often dependent upon the perceived power of the bully over their victim.Self Esteem - Bullies may put down others to boost their own self-esteem and confidence to help deal with personal feelings of inadequacy.
26 Factors and impact of workplace bullying (cont.) There are a multitude of factors: (cont.)Difference - An individual or group may become targets of workplace bullying because others perceive them as being new or differentPerceived Threat - Some people bully others because the other person is perceived as a threat to them personally, or a threat to their position within the company.
27 What to do if its happening to you Every situation is different and how you handle bullying will depend on your particular work environment, the systems available in your workplace and the nature of the bullying.If you are being bullied, you could take a personal and informal approach or follow a more formal approach.
28 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) The following personal and informal steps are recommended as a possible first approach in dealing with most bullying cases:Step 1 - Check policies and proceduresGuide to Resolving Grievances and Complaints for DECS Employees and the DECS Complaint Resolution for Employees - Complaint Quick Reference GuideThe grievance policy and procedures have informal resolution processes aimed at resolving issues as quickly as possible in a no blame, conciliatory manner, as well as a more formal investigation process.
29 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 2 - Seek advice and keep recordsSeek advice from your Health & Safety Representative (HSR), Ethical Standards and Merit Protection Unit or EAP Provider.Avoid making allegations about bullying behaviour or harassment to people who are not involved in the handling of complaints in your workplaceThe alleged bully is protected by confidentiality provisions in law and may be able to take action if the complaint is not handled properlyKeep a record of what is happening. This information may be useful later if more formal steps are required.
30 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 3 - Consider all available optionsApproach the bullyIf you feel safe and comfortable to do so, make it quite clear to the bully as soon as possible that the behaviour is unwanted and unacceptable and that you will not tolerate itAsk an appropriate person (e.g. line manager, trusted colleague or site-based grievance contact person) to approach the bully on your behalf or to mediate or facilitate face-to-face discussions and find a resolution that is acceptable to everyone involved.
31 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 3 - Consider all available options (cont.)Contact your HSRThe functions of an elected HSR include liaising with employees on health, safety and welfare matters, and reporting to the employer any hazard or potential hazard to which employees might be exposedThe HSR should be able to provide you with information, support and assistance in dealing with the bullying issues.
32 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 3 - Consider all available options (contd.)Use the EAP Counselling ServicesDavidson Trahaire Corpsych Pty Ltd (DTC) delivers, confidential and independent counselling services at no cost for DECS managers and staffTelephone to access this service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in Australia.
33 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 3 - Consider all available options (contd.)Lodge a formal complaintA formal investigation may be required if the informal procedures are not successful or where the allegations are more serious and there has been less favourable treatment or actual physical or psychological harmThis would usually be confirmed by preliminary enquiries undertaken by a Grievance Officer before a formal investigation is undertaken.
34 What to do if its happening to you (contd.) Step 3 - Consider all available options (contd.)Lodge a formal complaint (contd.)You may decide, or be required to lodge a written complaint to your employerIf a formal investigation does occur, an impartial person who is not involved in the particular situation should carry this outThe investigator should document your report and keep a record of information gathered in the course of the investigation and you should be advised of the outcome.
35 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks Although primarily a psychological issue, workplace bullying should be managed like any other Occupational Health and Safety hazard.Once identified the degree of risk should be assessed and the risk controlled and reviewed to ensure that workplace bullying does not become, or continue to be, a problem within the workplace
36 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Due to the sensitivity of many bullying incidents, it is strongly recommended that, wherever possible, agreed procedures are conducted as informally as possible in confidence, and with fair procedures to minimise conflict and stress for the individuals involvedEmployees are encouraged to participate in developing safe work procedures to deal with bullying, and providing it is safe to do so, should report incidents of bullying to an appropriate person at the workplace.
37 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step One – Identifying the hazardEstablish whether workplace bullying actually exists, or whether there is a potential for bullying to occur in the workplace at some point in the future.Consider the work required and work proceduresFocus on the systems of work rather than on the individuals
38 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step One – Identifying the hazard (contd.)Conduct a survey of employees on the issues of workplace bullyingMonitor patterns of absenteeism, sick leave, staff turnover, grievances, injury reports and other such records to establish any regular patterns or sudden unexplained changes
39 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step One – Identifying the hazard (contd.)Monitor deterioration in workplace relationships between employees, clients or managersMonitor feedback from exit interviews or feedback given directly from managers/supervisors or any other internal or external party.
40 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Two – Assessing the risk factorsDetermine, in consultation with those affected, the specific behaviours and circumstances that may result in incidents of workplace bullying and assess the likelihood of these behaviours affecting the health, safety and welfare of employees.
41 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Two – Assessing the risk factors (contd.)Some points to consider are:Repeated and unjustified criticism that is targeted at an individual or individuals, rather than at work performanceThreats of punishment for no justifiable reasonOverloading a particular person with too much work or an unreasonable share of unpleasant jobs
42 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Two – Assessing the risk factors (contd.)Unwarranted or unjustified constant checking of an employee’s work quality, output or whereaboutsHumiliating a person through criticism, sarcasm and/or insults, especially in front of other staff, customers or clients
43 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Three – Controlling the risk factorsDevelop and implement strategies and plans to minimise and control the risks relating to workplace bullying. It is recommended that these include:Developing a site-based Workplace Bullying PolicyEstablishing expectations of appropriate behaviour and the consequences for failing to comply with expectations of appropriate behaviour
44 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Three – Controlling the risk factors (contd.)Familiarisation with the DECS Complaint Resolution for Employees ProcedureEnsuring that site leader (and persons of responsibility) are aware of the obligations they have, to assist DECS as the employer, to comply with its statutory obligations
45 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Three – Controlling the risk factors (contd.)Providing clear job descriptions that include an outline of the specific roles and responsibilities for each position within the workplaceKeeping statistical records and information relating to productivity, absenteeism, grievances, work related injuries, customer complaints, disciplinary actions and so on.
46 Recognising and removing workplace bullying risks (contd.) Step Four – Evaluation and reviewReview and evaluate strategies and plans that have been implemented into a workplace to prevent and control workplace bullying.The process should ensure that strategies implemented are effective in preventing or minimising incidents of workplace bullying within the workplace.
47 Where else can I get help? Ethical Standards and Merit Protection UnitConfidential advice and information.Tel:Employee Assistance ProviderDavidson Trahaire Corpsych Pty Ltd (DTC) provide confidential and independent counselling services at no cost for DECS managers and staff.Tel:Australian Education Union (AEU)Information Unit.Tel:Public Service Association (PSA)Members’ Rights Hotline.Tel:
48 Other resourcesDealing with Workplace Bullying - A Practical Guide for EmployeesThis practical guide has been developed to help employees identify and deal with bullying in the workplace.Preventing Workplace Bullying - A Practical Guide for EmployersThis practical guide has been developed to assist all workplaces to identify, assess, minimise, control and review the risks to health, safety and welfare caused by workplace bullying.Stop Bullying in SAInteragency Roundtable website on Workplace Bullying.Dealing with Workplace Bullying – SafeWork SADownloads from SafeWork SA website.