Bullying at work is unacceptable behaviour. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying is an OHS issue that employers must address and manage. The employer has a duty to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment (including a safe and healthy workplace and systems of work). The employer must also monitor the workplace, monitor the health of employees and consult with the OHS rep, and with employees on the identification, assessment and control of risks.
When responding to the issue of bullying, it's important to ensure that any workplace factors which may be contributing to such behaviours, are identified and then eliminated or minimised. Such factors include:
- Organisational change
- Workforce characteristics
- Workplace relationships
- Work systems
What should an HSR do?
- Consult with your members and discuss the issue to create awareness of it.
- Carry out surveys to see if bullying may be a problem in your workplace.
- make sure the survey also looks at workplace factors which may be contributing to bullying
- Advise members to collect evidence, keep a diary of any incidents.
- Together with management:
- develop a policy on bullying. The policy should include a definition of bullying, the possible effects, that it is not tolerated by the organisation, and reporting and investigation procedures. This may be a task for the joint OHS committee if there is one in place. If there isn't, then consider requesting that the employer establish one. The likelihood of bullying in a workplace where there is consideration and respect is lower than in a workplace where there is little respect.
- look at workplace factors and work to reducing the impact on behaviours
- Consult with the employer to ensure that adequate training, information and instruction is provided at the workplace to all workers, supervisors and health and safety representatives.
- Encourage your members to report all incidents of bullying/harassment. Use this Bullying Report Form (amend it or develop your own).
- Keep your eyes open for any warning signs that bullying is happening in your workplace.
- Contact your union for further advice or information or advice.
CONTENTS OF ANTI-BULLYING POLICY/PROCEDURE
The most effective way to stop bullying before it starts is to create a climate or culture within an organisation, which makes it clear that bullying is unacceptable, and make it clear to any would-be bullies that certain behaviours are out of bounds.
A specific policy intended to prevent or stop bullying should:
- Include a statement of commitment by all levels of management, which defines bullying and makes it clear that it is unacceptable in the organisation.
- Be jointly developed and agreed by management, Health and Safety Representatives, relevant unions and Health and Safety Committee.
- Guarantee confidentiality and rapid resolution of issues.
Provide for regular monitoring and review.
The UK's peak union council, the TUC has produced guidance for safety representatives on dealing with bullying and violence, including:
- Draft Survey on Bullying [pdf]
- Guide for HSRs
- Reporting work-related violence - advice from the TUC
The UK union UNISON has produced very useful advice for union delegates and OHS reps: Bullying and Harassment at Work. The page has links to other resources, such as guidelines which give advice on the sorts of things that can be done to combat bullying in the workplace. The guideline includes a draft bullying policy and survey: Bullying at Work [pdf]
Last updated October 2018