Will National Bullying Laws Allow Compensation for Idle Workers?

According to a report in today’s edition of The Telegraph, workers that are employed in jobs considered “cushy” will be able to claim worker’s compensation for not being given enough work in the new national laws designed to fight bullying in the workplace.

Various employer groups are calling the laws included in a draft code of practice, that would be admissible in court, as the “nanny state” rules.

In the draft plan “not providing enough work” can be seen as an indirect form of bullying, as well as constantly changing deadlines or establishing timelines that are difficult for a worker to achieve.

In the code employers are encouraged to ban pranks or any behaviour that can result in workers being ostracised within the workplace. In line with the federal public service policy on bullying the national code prohibits anything, such as eye-rolling responses, that might reduce the dignity of a person.

According to the report Mark Goodsell, the Australian Industry Group’s representative on the board of Safe Work Australia, predicted yesterday that employers would begin to pay “go-away money” so that they can avoid court cases.

He said that it is likely that every time that an employee doesn’t like something even if it is reasonable, necessary and constructive criticism or performance management they will claim to be bullied.

He added that he felt that it is easy for a worker to make an allegation but expensive for employers and managers to rebut.

Safe Work Australia removed the words “bully” and “victim” from an earlier draft of the code after WorkCover in NSW and WA objected saying that people would be labeled by the terms.

The code of practice has been put on hold till the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry into bullying, which was ordered by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is known.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) director and Queensland president, David Goodwin, said that employers are now responsible for almost every aspect of their workers wellbeing whether they know it or not.

He added in the report that Australian business owners are becoming fed up with having to take responsibility for everything.

Carolyn Davis, the ACCI work health and safety manager said that any guide needs to clearly distinguish the difference between bullying and legitimate or reasonable management because bullying can be open to “subjective interpretation.”

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