Release type: Media Release


Government puts workplace bullies on notice


The Hon Bill Shorten MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation

Australians who are bullied at work will be able to get help quickly with a focus on early intervention through the Fair Work Commission.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today announced the Government’s response to a parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Amanda Rishworth MP, into workplace bullying, supporting the majority of the 23 recommendations made by the House of Representatives committee.

The Government’s response supports measures to adopt a national definition of workplace bullying, to promote education and awareness of what constitutes workplace bullying and to lead the development of national training standards to improve responses to bullying complaints.

“Bullying and harassment have no place in any Australian workplace. Every Australian who goes to work should be able to come home safe,” Mr Shorten said.

“The Government will amend the Fair Work Act to allow an employee who has suffered bullying at work a right to seek assistance through the Fair Work Commission.

“We want to make sure all Australian workplaces are safe, healthy and productive and to adopt a zero tolerance approach to bullying.

“We heard from those who gave evidence of their personal experiences to the Committee the importance of early intervention in bullying cases, to preserve the employment relationship, to stop bullying from continuing or escalating and to ensure their voices are heard.

“Today’s announcement to empower the Fair Work Commission to deal with bullying complaints will provide an accessible, affordable and timely pathway to help resolve bullying matters for workers and employers.”

The amendments to the Fair Work Act will include:

  • 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; and
  • Enabling the Fair Work Commission to make orders to deal with the complaint and/or to refer to the relevant state WHS regulator

Other recommendations supported by the Government include Safe Work Australia developing materials for employers that provide advice on preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

Safe Work Australia will also work with the states and territories to develop nationally accredited training for managers and health and safety representatives to help them deal with bullying.

“Supporting workplace leaders and managers to address bullying through prevention, early intervention and improving skills to deal with workplace bullying is vital to changing workplace cultures,” Mr Shorten said.

“The Government is committed to working with the states and territories to ensure Australia’s front line work health and safety inspectors have access to the training and skills to help them respond at the highest level when dealing with workplace bullying.”

The Government will consult with stakeholders on the detail of the Fair Work Act amendments.