Queensland small businesses on notice with workplace bullying
The recent decision awarding a former State Government employee more than $1 million confirms that employers must provide adequate bullying and harassment training to their management staff.
“Employers must understand the legal consequences of workplace bullying. Bullying in your workplace can expose you to all sorts of claims,” warns CCIQ’s Manager of Employer Assistance Services, Jason Wales.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland provides an exclusive service for small business owners through the CCIQ Training program.
CCIQ Training is a video-based system that enables staff to complete up-to-date HR, safety and leadership courses anywhere, anytime on a desktop or tablet device.
“Draw from our catalogue of 80 engaging video courses, developed by our venture partner Vocam, to build training programs specific to your business,” said Mr Wales.
One of the key videos is Workplace Bullying and Harassment.
Bullying, harassment, and violence are all forms of unacceptable behaviour that create a risk to health and safety in the workplace. Employers and employees at all levels are responsible for maintaining a positive, productive working culture, where everyone is treated with tolerance, dignity and respect.
Mr Wales said it was particularly relevant following the personal injury case involving the NSW Government employee. He provides some in-depth analysis on the matter and guidelines for employers.
“The treatment suffered while employed has left the former employee unable to return work,” he said.
“The payout was made up of two components – one for total and permanent disablement, which was paid out by a private insurer, and a Workers’ Compensation payment, for past and future earning capacity.
“It very clear that the two managers involved here were not aware of their obligations to provide a safe work environment free from harm. Their actions in ‘blindsiding’ the former employee and berating her to the point where she broke down in tears is unacceptable and posed significant risk to the physical and psychological health of the former employee.
“Further, the constant and deliberate bullying actions of one of the mangers after the event contributed to the decline of the former employee’s physical and psychological health.
“Where this case is also of interest to employers is the result of the internal bullying investigation that had not identified any misconduct by the managers involved.
“Employers need to ensure a fair investigation process in undertaken. All documentation stemming from claims of bulling and harassment will be taken into consideration where claims are progressed to litigation.
“Failing to conduct adequate and fair processes will be to the employer’s detriment. Failing to have policies and procedures in place will be seen negatively.
“Employers must understand the legal consequences of workplace bullying. Bullying in your workplace can expose you to claims under:
• Health and safety legislation;
• The common law duty of care;
• Workers’ Compensation legislation applicable to your workplace;
• The contracts of employment you make with your employees;
• The FW Act anti-bullying scheme; and
• Laws preventing misleading and deceptive conduct.
“Depending on the circumstances of a bullying situation, you may also be liable under other laws, including anti-discrimination, anti-vilification and equal opportunity legislation,” he said.