The draft ‘Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying’, Code of Practice (COP) was released on 26 September. It remains open for public comment until 16 December. It is part of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations attached to the WHS Act. The WHS Act is due to commence on 1 January 2012 with possible delayed commencement of the Regulations for up to 1 year.
While it is the first time we have received clarity on the definition of workplace bullying in one document, what we see in the draft COP is not unexpected. The draft COP:
- Defines Workplace Bullying as, “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.’
- Establishes that bullying can be both direct and indirect.
- Establishes that bullying can be intentional or unintentional.
- Acknowledges that the behaviour can occur face-to-face, over the phone, via email, instant messaging or using mobile phone technologies including text messaging.
- Bullying complaints can be addressed informally or through formal investigations.
- All matters should be treated seriously and confidentially.
- Complaints should be addressed promptly and impartially.
- Parties should be supported and not victimised.
- The process and outcomes should be communicated to the parties.
- Adequate records should be maintained.
The draft COP does attempt to increase the onus on workplace participants taking action against bullying. It places a legal responsibility on employers, i.e. persons conducting a business or undertaking – (PCBU), officers and workers to prevent bullying in the workplace. It also requires that businesses:
- Have robust safety systems that clearly identify, assess and control the risk of workplace bullying.
- Have a clearly defined and communicated bullying policy. The policy may be developed as a specific bullying policy or incorporated into an existing health and safety or HR policy.
- Develop effective complaints procedures.
- Ensure information and training is provided to employees and managers. Those who have a designated role in handling bullying complaints should be provided with specific training on grievance processes.
- Encourage reporting with appropriate support mechanisms such as contact officers.
Further, the WHS Act attempts to embed a safety culture by requiring “Officers” of the PCBU (such as company directors, senior managers, operational or commercial managers) to take reasonable steps to acquire, and keep up to date with, knowledge of work health and safety concerns in the business.
It would be smart practice to progress filing any gaps in the above lists now so your business is ready for 1 January 2012. PEEL HR can provide organisations with assistance in the development of resources that support these initiatives such as policies, manager’s implementation guides, designing complaint processes as well as our Respectful Workplace Training series for Managers and Employees and Workplace Investigations Training program for HR and Managers.
Please feel free to contact us or in the office on: 4963 7373