An update: first orders from Fair Work Commission on workplace bullying

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We have been keeping you up to date with the new jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to deal with complaints regarding workplace bullying.

Recently, the FWC made its first orders in response to a workplace bullying complaint under this new jurisdiction. These orders give us some idea as to what we can expect from the FWC in dealing with bullying complaints.

An Application for an order to stop bullying was heard by Senior Deputy President Drake on 21 March 2014.

Following a conference between the parties, it was agreed that the employee, the subject of the application, would:

1. Complete any exercise at the employer’s premises before 8.00a.m.

2. Have no contact with the applicant alone.

3. Make no comment about the applicant’s clothes or appearance.

4. Not send any emails or texts to the applicant except in emergency circumstances.

5. Not raise any work issues without notifying the Chief Operating Officer of the respondent, or his subordinate, beforehand.

Orders to be followed by the employee, the applicant:

1. The applicant shall not arrive at work before 8.15 a.m.

The parties were given leave to approach to have the matter relisted for further conference should there be any difficulty with the implementation of the Orders.

The judgment did not give a factual background which gave rise to the orders, nor did it name the parties involved. However, it does give us an idea what orders the FWC is willing to make in these circumstances. As you can see, the employer will need to accommodate both employees in accordance with these orders.

Obviously, it’s preferable for such issues to be dealt with before they escalate to a FWC hearing.

Practically, employers need to remember that a policy and procedure dealing with bullying and harassment which includes a procedure for how to lodge a grievance and how it will be dealt with, is paramount in this legal environment.

Of course, not only do you need to have the written policies in place, your employees need to be aware of the policies, you need evidence that employees agree to be bound by the policies, there is adequate training for employees on the new policies and you need to ensure that everyone follows the policies.

We can help you with preparation of the policies and any training that your employees or managers may require. We can also help with any investigation that you consider may be required on receipt of a bullying complaint. Contact Osborn Law on (02) 2927 2900 for assistance.

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