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LIV President's Blog 2012

LIV President's Blog 2012

Michael Holcroft, LIV President 2012 on the latest issues and topics. Read and comment.

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Workplace bullying – why doesn’t the legislation work?

Workplace bullying – why doesn’t the legislation work?
The LIV will give evidence to a House of Representatives committee looking into workplace bullying next Wednesday, 11 July. The LIV is concerned that current State based legislation is inadequate in addressing this issue. We will call for a nationally recognised legislative definition of bullying as well as access to a quick, cost effective civil remedy through an appropriate tribunal for bullying in the workplace.

“Brodie’s law” ineffective
Deputy chair of the LIV Workplace Relations Section, Moira Rayner, will give evidence before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment in Melbourne.

Ms Rayner says that the current Victorian law, the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Act 2011 - colloquially referred to as “Brodie’s law” - is ineffective and is not being used by victims of workplace bullying.

“We have to make employers acutely aware that they will pay heavily if they do not run their workplaces so that bullying is outed and dealt with at the earliest possible stage, without any victim having to make a complaint,” Ms Rayner said.

She argues that the current Brodie’s law does not work because it relies on humiliated and downtrodden victims to make a complaint, which could result in even further victimiisation.

Practical steps for employers to reduce workplace bullying
The LIV has produced a submission on the topic, which will be on our website at on Wednesday after the hearing.

In an earlier submission to Safework Australia we outlined some practical steps employers should be required to take:

1. Develop a workplace bullying policy consisting of:
  •  a statement that the organisation is committed to preventing bullying;
  • the standards of appropriate behaviour;
  • a process to encourage reporting, including contact points;
  • a definition of bullying with examples of bullying behaviour; and
  • the consequences for not complying with the policy.
2. Develop an effective complaints resolution process
3. Provide information and training on workplace bullying to staff
4. Encourage the reporting of workplace bullying incidents

Still no legal definition of bullying
In its submission to the House of Representatives committee next week, the LIV will note that there is currently no single national anti-bullying statute and no nationally acceptable legal or legislative definition of what constitutes bullying.
The LIV submits that there needs to be a nationally recognised legislative definition of bullying, which should include clear examples of what constitutes bullying conduct.

As well, the definition of “workplace” should be defined to confirm that it encompasses instances where bullying takes place outside the workplace, for example work functions or events, and on line.

The LIV also notes that there are a variety of legal mechanisms in place to address and respond to bullying.

We further recommend that the federal government introduce legislation to provide a quick, cost effective civil remedy through an appropriate tribunal for bullying in the workplace.

Further community education is also required.

Further information for the legal profession
Lawyers must also be aware of legislation and potential reforms to bullying legislation.

The LIV will run a Hot Topic 2012 forum on bullying - 'No more Bull! (ying)' on September 6.

It will consider current reforms, potential uniform legislation and Occupational Health and Safety guidelines around bullying.

What do you think? Is the current state based legislation adequate?
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