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The Federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment has released its findings on bullying in the workplace. The report, entitled Workplace Bullying: We just want it to stop was tabled on Monday 26 November 2012 and provides 23 recommendations to create a harmonised set of minimum standards and guidelines for the management of bullying in workplaces.

A nation-wide definition of workplace bullying

The Committee recommends the establishment of a national advisory service to offer advice and guidelines to both employers and employees on what does and does not constitute workplace bullying.  To this end it recommends the adoption of a nationally consistent definition of bullying and what constitutes bullying behavior:

“Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.”

This contrasts with the current situation where there is no express prohibition on workplace bullying in any Australian laws, and with different definitions of bullying and no real guidelines in State and Territory legislation. Add

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 On 6 April 2011 the Victorian parliament introduced a Bill to amend the Crimes Act so that serious workplace bullying could result in a jail term of up to 10 years. The definition of what type of behaviour would be covered by the legislation includes "using abusive or offensive words" that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental harm to a person (including self-harm).

Although Victoria is the first state to introduce legislation bringing this behaviour into the criminal sphere, if passed it is reasonable to suggest that other states will follow.

The introduction of this legislation reflects the wider problem of inappropriate workplace behaviour and making those responsible accountable for their actions. The proposed legislation would also cover online bullying which is of particular importance with the growing use of social media sites.

Implications for Employers
Employers need to be particularly diligent in ensuring:
1.    That they have clear policies and guidelines outlining what is acceptable behaviour,
2.    Defined processes for dealing with employees who do

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