Twelve months after the introduction of national anti-bullying laws, Andrew Bland - Principal discusses the issue.
The recent annual report of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) showed the number of bullying complaints trending upwards. However, the numbers are nothing like what the concerned pundits predicted, nor has the new jurisdiction turned out to be the great threat anticipated to employers and their ability to manage staff, or so the FWC's capacity to deal with the flood of complaints.
In January 2014, as the new jurisdiction was launched, there were more that 28,000 hits on the FWC's website dealing with anti-bullying laws. But by the six-month mark, only 343 applications had been made.
There are many reasons why we haven't seen the spike in complaints forecast.
It's probable many employees remain unaware of the regime and how to apply it. This may account for slow creep in the number of complains. When faced with an uncomfortable situation at work, many employees will simply leave. The other major disincentive is that there's no compensation available.
Almost 50 per cent of the 343 applications were withdrawn before the start of proceedings. Some were withdrawn after the initial confereence stage, while the majority of complaints were resolvied at the conciliation stage. Only one comaplaint was submitted for determination by the FWC. However, it was revoked in December, with the applicant stating the FWC process had all but elimiated the conflict between her and a bully.
Does this mean bullying is simply not an issue? Or that employers can ignore bullying complaints, safe in the knowledge that the flegling FWC anti-bullying regime is unlikely to affect them? Absolutely not.