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Bullying in the boardroom and beyond

in Employment Law by Robert Auricchio on
Bullying in the boardroom and beyond

Recent high profile cases concerning bullying have highlighted the ongoing problem of bullying in the workplace even at the executive level. Slater and Gordon continually receive claims from employees alleging bullying in the workplace. In many cases, the bullying may be in the form of indiscriminate performance reviews; preventing access to information; belittling the employee or just outright aggressive behaviour.

How does the law define bullying?

Bullying generally involves ‘repeated’ behaviour, normally with more than one occurrence and would be considered unreasonable to a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances. An objective test is applied to determine if bullying has occurred. An applicant must also prove that there is the possibility of danger to health and safety. The mere counselling of an employee for alleged underperformance is not considered bullying.

When can you approach the Fair Work Commission?

An employee who reasonably believes that he or she has been bullied at work may apply to the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”) for an order. The FWC may start to inform itself of the matter by conducting a conference or hearing. If the FWC finds that bullying has occurred, then it may make any order (other than money) to prevent the worker from being bullied at work by the individual or group. It is imperative that an employee keep a diary and collate any evidence in support of their claim.

Anti-bullying order restraint

Recently the FWC issued an interim anti-bullying order restraining the employer from communicating with or being within 10 metres of one of its own employees and gave the employer one week to provide a proposal as to how it will implement anti-bullying training and introduce policies to avoid other inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Restraining order on disciplining executive

In another case, the FWC issued an interim order to restrain an employer from disciplining an executive for alleged misconduct until the tribunal determined her anti-bullying application and recommended that the employer engage an independent party to conduct an investigation.

Increase in maximum compensation and high-earner cap for unfair dismissals

Under s382 of the Fair Work Act, the unfair dismissal threshold has been raised to $142,000, increasing from the previous sum of $138,900 beginning 1 July, 2017.

This now makes it easier for Australians who have been dismissed to lodge an Unfair Dismissal claim who previously may not have fallen within the threshold.

The maximum compensation for Unfair Dismissal matters has also increased from $69,450 to $71,000.

If you have a workplace bullying query or want to find out how to make a claim, you can contact us here.