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New Bullying laws coming into effect 1 January 2014

bullying, harassment and discrimination laws

New Federal bullying laws in Australia are coming into effect from 1 January 2014 under the Fair Work Act 2009 as they were passed by Parliament on June 28 2013.

Effectively, employers should ensure that over the next few months they update and review any existing bullying, harassment and discrimination policies together with associated work health safety policies. Further, employees should be inducted according to workplace policies. Overall these changes will provide broader entitlements to victims of workplace bullying.

In particular, at the workplace, if an individual or a group of individuals behave unreasonably towards you on a repeated basis and that particular behaviour creates a risk to your health and safety, then it is considered bullying at work.

For the first time there will be an all encompassing law that makes bullying conduct unlawful with a right to redress workplace bullying through the Fair Work Commission. From 1 January 2014, employees, outworkers, contractors, subcontractors, trainees, apprentices, volunteers and students gaining work experience will be able to make an application if they are under a belief that they have been bullied at work.

Specifically, you would be able to make an application to the Fair Work Commission and it will deliver an order as it thinks appropriate under the circumstances in order to stop the workplace bullying. However, the Fair Work Commission is unable to make an order for pecuniary/monetary compensation. However, if the conduct complained of is "reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner," that conduct does not contravene the workplace bullying provisions.

The Fair Work Commission will be required to deal with the application within 14 days of it being lodged. You don't need to stay in the employment to be able to make a claim of bullying.

Once the order is made and if it is not complied with by the employer, you may then apply to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court to enforce that order. In effect, if it is found that the employer has breached an order from the Fair Work Commission then a civil penalty will be enforced on the employer, being a maximum penalty of $51,000 on a corporation and $10,200 on an individual.

Overall, organisations' procedures and policies need to be proactive while taking reasonable steps to prevent bullying and harassment from arising in the first instance

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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