Union pressing for changes to workplace laws on bullying

Unions NSW is pressing for an expansion of the list of risk factors for workplace bullying to include work overload, systems changes, exposure to violence and fatigue, and bad safety practice.

The Herald Sun reported that the union is seeking mandatory reporting of psychological injuries and funding for a national bullying helpline.

In Unions NSW’s submission for the federal inquiry into workplace bullying, they expressed their desire to have psychological and mental health damage to workers included in the definition of workplace bullying.

“Often workplace bullying is the secondary hazard that results (in) injury after the presence of other workplace hazards including psychological hazards,” said Unions NSW in the submission.

“For example violence, unsafe work practices, work overload and unclear work practices or inadequate work training may lead to higher exposure to workplace stress and a higher risk of workplace bullying behaviours causing…. injury to the worker(s).

“The increased stress may also cause people to use behaviour that may be viewed as bullying behaviour.”

The Herald Sun further reported that the Australian Industry Group agreed workplace bullying was a significant issue and more effort is needed to address it.

Director of national workplace relations, Stephen Smith however said that many workplace bullying complaints are invalid.

“The statistics… show that many complaints about workplace bullying turn out to not be valid – for example if an employer disciplines a poor performing employee in a reasonable way that is not bullying even though the employee may think that it is.”

In a reporting yesterday, the Productivity Commission estimates that workplace bullying costs Australia up to $ 36 billion per year.

Costs of workplace bullying to the government and businesses are increasing with increased workers’ compensation claims, legal bills, absenteeism, mental health issues, low morale and decreased productivity.


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