Govt takes tough approach in dealing with workplace bullies

THE Federal Government has taken steps it hopes will go a long way towards stamping out bullying in Australian workplaces.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the government planned to amend the Fair Work Act with a focus on early intervention through the Fair Work Commission.

Under the change people with a workplace bullying complaint will have it listed to be solved within 14 days.

Mr Shorten said a majority of the 23 recommendations stemming from a parliamentary inquiry were being supported, including adopting a national definition of workplace bullying, promoting education and awareness of what constitutes workplace bullying and leading the development of national training standards to improve responses to bullying complaints.

"We believe that bullying is like racism and discrimination: it has no place in modern Australian workplaces," Mr Shorten said during question time on Tuesday.

"But what we do know, all too sadly, is that bullying does occur in Australian workplaces. It is real, it has a cost and it is hurtful."

He told the story of the Panlocks, who lost their daughter Brodie because she was bullied at a Hawthorn cafe.

"The investigations have found that she was bullied but those investigations came far too late, and she committed suicide. I cannot imagine the loss and I cannot imagine the life not lived," he said.

Mr Shorten said workplace bullying was a workplace relations issue and called on the opposition to support the amendments.

"Every member of the House-from Labor, the Liberals or the crossbenches-will have to make a decision on the issue of workplace bullying in the next few months.

"We will amend the Fair Work Act. I hope and I expect that the amendments we propose will be supported by everyone in the House, because what we are about with our workplace relations policy is productive workplaces and flexible workplaces, but, most importantly, safe workplaces."

Earlier Prime Minister Julia Gillard told her caucus colleagues the government would focus on eradicating workplace bullying.



  • Adopting the committee's recommended definition: "Bullying, harassment or victimisation means repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety."
  • Recognising that bullying does not include reasonable management practices including performance management conducted in a reasonable manner.
  • Allowing workers who have suffered bullying to make a complaint to the Fair Work Commission.
  • Requiring the Fair Work Commission to deal with any application as a matter of priority including by listing the matter for consideration within 14 days.
  • Enabling the Fair Work Commission to make orders to deal with the complaint and/or to refer to the relevant state WHS regulator.