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Everyone has the right not to be bullied or harassed at work.

What is bullying?

A worker is bullied at work if:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening. Whether a behaviour is unreasonable can depend on whether a reasonable person might see the behaviour as unreasonable in the circumstances.

Examples of bullying include:

  • behaving aggressively
  • teasing or practical jokes
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
  • excluding someone from work-related events or
  • unreasonable work demands.

What isn’t bullying?

Reasonable management action that’s carried out in a reasonable way is not bullying.

An employer or manager can:

  • make decisions about poor performance
  • take disciplinary action
  • direct and control the way work is carried out.

Management action that isn’t carried out in a reasonable way may be considered bullying.

How is bullying different to discrimination?

Discrimination happens when there’s ‘adverse action’.

Adverse action includes firing or demoting someone because of a person’s characteristics, like their race, religion or sex.

Bullying at work happens when:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably toward a worker or a group of people workers
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

This behaviour doesn’t have to be related to the person (or group’s) characteristics. Adverse action doesn’t have to have happened.

Who is protected from bullying in the workplace?

The national anti-bullying laws cover most workplaces. These laws also cover:

  • outworkers
  • students gaining work experience
  • contractors or subcontractors
  • volunteers.

The Fair Work Commission (the Commission) is the national workplace relations tribunal that deals with anti-bullying claims under the Fair Work Act.

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Contact the HR experts at BetterHR for help and support.

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