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Bullying - The High cost of Bullying ~ Your business cannot afford to ignore

Workplace bullying is a serious issue that carries consequences for everyone involved. On top of the psychological and/or physical trauma suffered by the victims, some companies have found themselves facing heavy fine due to their incompetence or inaction.

What is workplace bullying?

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, bullying occurs if worker(s) have repeatedly behaved unreasonably towards an individual or group, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.[1] The unreasonable behaviour mentioned includes (but are not limited to) the victimisation, humiliation, intimidation or the threatening of the individual. Some examples include aggressive behaviour, teasing or practical jokes, pressuring someone to behave inappropriately, excluding someone from work events, and/or unreasonable work demands.

Are you covered?

In Australia, the national anti-bullying laws cover workers in businesses covered by the Fair Work Act, outworkers, work experience students, contractors or subcontractors, and volunteers.[2]

Costs to the Economy

The Australian Human Rights commission have identified the following consequences to employers of bullying in the workplace:

  • Higher absenteeism

  • High staff turnover

  • Lower morale

  • Decreased productivity

  • Increased Legal claims and compensation claims

  • Time and productivity lost due to managers taking time to deal with the issues arising from bullying.

Safe Work Australia assessed the cost to the Australian economy due to depression, reduced morale and absenteeism at $8 billion per year to the economy and the total loss far greater than that.

As a director of a business you can be personally fined for bullying or failing to address bullying in the workplace. It’s estimate that average cost per claim for an employer for a bullying case brought by an employee is in excess of $20, 000 then there can be significant legal penalties on top of that.

Recent cases

In December of 2017, Hawkesbury Race Club was ordered to pay more than $120,000 to a former employee after the Workers Compensation Commission found that she was bullied and harassed at the workplace by her boss, which resulted in her diagnosis of major depressive disorder and inability to work.[3]

Employers that fail to protect their workers from workplace bullying could also be sued for their inaction or negligence to complaints made by a worker. In early 2016, the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded $1.36 million to a former worker in a construction company when the employers failed to protect the worker from workplace bullying and sexual harassment.[4] Despite the compensation received by the former employee, the experience of workplace bullying has led to a chronic psychiatric illness with several doctors unanimously agreeing that her incapacity to work is long term and indefinite.

Guidelines for a positive and safe working environment

For a safe working environment, your company should implement a workplace policy that clearly details acceptable and unacceptable conduct in the workplace. The company must ensure that all complaints are investigated and resolved. It is vital that the reports of bullying are not disregarded and are followed through by the supervising management, no matter the severity.

However, the best way to approach workplace bullying is still the prevention of it. An important step towards this is to educate and train your staff in recognising and identifying issues and their obligations in the workplace. A positive and comfortable workplace equals a productive one!

What to do if you think you are experiencing bullying at your workplace?

If you think you are experiencing bullying at your workplace, there is more than one place you can submit an application. This includes the Fair Work Commission, the Health and Safety authority in your State/Territory, and/or the Workers Compensation Commission. The application differs depending on your situation.

How Voice can assist:


Drafting Bullying policies, procedures and implementation

Performance management

Workplace Training and education


If you would like advice on this or other aspects of your workplace, call at Voice Lawyers on (02) 9261 1954 or to make an appointment.

Voice Lawyers have offices in Sydney CBD and Macquarie Park.

[1] Fair Work Ombudsman

[2] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) ss 789 (f)(a)-(i)

[3] Leggett v Hawkesbury Race Club Ltd

[4] Kate Mathews v Winslow Constructors (Vic) Pty Ltd [2015]

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