Bullying in the workplace has an undeniable financial and personal cost for the victims. Workplace bullying affects businesses, bystanders and even those who may be accused of the unreasonable conduct. The risk of experiencing mental health issues is increased when someone has experienced or witnessed workplace bullying. Intervening quickly when this type of harm is being sustained is widely acknowledged as being the key to ensuring issues of workplace bullying do not escalate.

The Fair Work Commission has the jurisdiction to issue orders to stop bullying where a worker has been bullied at work and there is a risk it will continue. Since this jurisdiction was conferred on the Commission on 1 January 2014 over 3,000 such applications have been made. The Commission has a legislative obligation to start dealing with these matters promptly and generally does so within a median of one day from lodgement.

Data collected by the Commission since the conferral of the anti-bullying jurisdiction gives an insight into the events surrounding an application to the Commission. This data shows that an overwhelming majority of workers consider that they have reported the unreasonable behaviour they’ve experienced to the business. However, just under a quarter of workers considered that the bullying procedure available at their workplace had actually been followed. In addition, more than half of workers are not actively at work when they make their application, with most of these workers being on some type of short term leave or other absence.

The Commission’s focus is on stopping bullying from occurring at work and maintaining safe and productive workplaces when an applicant worker is still at work and the matter is dealt with promptly.