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If you thought that bullying in Australia was restricted to the school playground, you’d be wrong. Workplace bullying is said to be rife in Australia – and it can have massively negative outcomes for business. It is estimated that the financial cost of bullying to Australian business runs into billions of dollars per year, with decreased productivity, low morale, increased absenteeism and high staff turnover among the symptoms.

In recent years, Productivity Commission research found that 2.5 million Australians experienced some aspect of bullying during their working lives, and a survey of 800 employees by Drake International found that half of the respondents had witnessed bullying and 25% had been bullied.

Any type of business can be affected and in extreme circumstances it can lead to legal action in the form of a claim to WorkCover for a workplace injury – and that can have an impact on workers compensation premiums. Workplace bullying case costs employers an average of $17,000 to $24,000 per claim.

On 1 January 2014, workplace bullying laws became part of the Fair Work Act 2009. Employers are obliged to take all reasonably practicable steps to manage health and safety risks in their workplaces, and bullying is one such health and safety risk. So what can business owners and staff do to ensure there’s no room for bullying in their own workplaces?

Workplace bullying policy: Every business should have an effective workplace bullying policy which covers a definition of workplace bullying, including a statement that workplace bullying is unlawful;

a complaints process; and information about the consequences for a worker who has engaged in workplace bullying. All staff should be aware of the company policy, and know the avenues open to them to report workplace bullying.

Fairness and transparency: Performance management and investigation processes need to be fair and reasonable. Appropriate documentation detailing the actions taken when an employee makes a grievance or complaint about bullying behaviour are required.

Management training: Managers should have ongoing training to enable them to identify and address bullying behaviour that is reported to them, or that they are witness to. All should know what is and what isn’t considered bullying in the eyes of the law.

Set the standards: Ultimately it is the culture of the workplace that has the greatest impact on bullying. Positive leadership, effective communication with the work force, staff support and mentoring mechanisms can all contribute to a happier, more united workplace, with lower cases of workplace bullying.

At Emjay Insurance Brokers, we are experts in workers compensation insurance, and we can help you with risk management, workplace analyses and targeted training needs. You can read more about our workers comp services here, and you can contact us on 02 9796 0400.

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