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Workplace Bullying Assessment Checklist

Version 1.0 Updated 20 Feb 2018
Forms & Checklists Manage

Who is responsible for workplace bullying?

Bullying is a serious risk to the health and safety of workers. Under the relevant health and safety legislation (the "WHS Legislation") and associated regulations and codes of practice, the primary duty to eliminate or minimise, as far as reasonably practicable, the risks to health and safety (including psychological health) in the workplace is imposed on a person conducting a business or undertaking ("PCBU"). For the purposes of the Legislation, an employer is a PCBU and therefore bears the primary responsibility.

While the employer has the primary duty, workers are reminded that under the WHS Legislation they are required to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, as well as that of others at the company’s workplace. This includes a duty to take reasonable care not to adversely affect the health and safety of persons in the workplace and to comply with the reasonable instructions or directions of the company.

From 1 January 2014 new anti-bullying laws commence in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“Fair Work Act”). These laws only apply to a business conducted by a constitutional corporation, the Commonwealth, a Commonwealth Authority, a body incorporated in a Territory or business or undertaking is conducted principally in a Territory or Commonwealth place. If you are a sole-trader or partnership operating in a State, the laws may not apply to your business. Under these anti-bullying laws, a worker may make an application to the Fair Work Commission to make an order for to prevent the bullying conduct complained of.

What steps should be taken to prevent workplace bullying?

Employers should take all reasonable steps to prevent bullying before it becomes a risk to the health and safety of its workers and others in the workplace. This is best achieved through a risk management process. This process should include:

  •     identification of bullying risk factors;
  •     assessment of the likelihood of bullying occurring from the risk factors identified and their potential impact on the workers or workplace;
  •     eliminating the risks, as far as reasonable practicable, or controlling, or minimising, them as far as reasonable practicable; and
  •     reviewing the effectiveness of the control methods put in place and the process generally.


What are some of the common risk factors which may lead to bullying?

Bullying can be the result of a number of different factors in a workplace, from a company’s culture to poor management skills. Some risk factors which make bullying more likely to occur are:

  •     Organizational change - i.e significant change in the workplace that may lead to job insecurity for example, restructure and redundancy, introduction of technology, change in management.
  •     The company’s culture – the company’s values, views and beliefs can either expressly or implicitly encourage bullying behaviours, for example, when a company promotes aggressive behaviour as a means of ensuring its workers are performing their roles, or adopts a culture in which it is acceptable to ignore such behaviours.
  •     Negative leadership styles – such as strict, autocratic management styles, which do not allow for flexibility or involvement by employees; or passive, ‘laissez-faire’ management styles which are characterized by a tendency to avoid decisions, inadequate supervision and little guidance to workers.
  •     Inappropriate systems of work – this includes excessive workloads, unreasonable timeframes, uncertainty about roles and how they should be performed, and lack of employee support.
  •     Poor work relationships – can be characterized by poor communication, negative relationships with supervisors or colleagues, excessive criticism by manager and the exclusion or isolation of workers.
  •     Workforce characteristics – a company’s workforce may be made up groups of workers who may be at a higher risk of bullying because of certain characteristics: for example, young workers, new workers, apprentices, injured workers, workers in a minority group because of their race, disability, religion, gender or sexual preference.


This checklist has been developed to assist employers in their duty to identify, assess, eliminate and/ or control bullying in the workplace, taking into account the common risk factors.

Consultation

Please note that the WHS Legislation requires that as a PCBU, an employer must, as far as reasonably practicable, consult with its employees or others carrying out work, before making decisions on health and safety matters, including bullying. If there are health and safety representatives then they must be involved in the consultation process. Consultation must be carried out when developing policies and procedures relating to bullying, including complaint procedure. Consultation involves sharing information with workers, allowing then to express views and taking those views into account.

Further Guidance

There is further guidance on the prevention of bullying in the workplace in Safe Work Australia Code of Practice - Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying [with effect from 1 January 2012 in some States and shortly thereafter in the remaining States and Territories]. This code is generally applicable to all types of work and all workplaces covered by the Legislation, including workplaces that are mobile, temporary and remote. I can be used by managers, supervisors, workers (including volunteers and contractors), health and safety representatives and other persons at the workplace to assist with managing the risks associated with bullying in the workplace.

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