FWC reiterates importance for anti-bullying policies, grievance procedures and careful selection of managers

At a recent Labour Law Conference in Sydney, the Fair Work Commission’s Senior Deputy President Hamberger provided an update on the FWC’s new anti-bullying jurisdiction.

In his Keynote Address, His Honour noted that most of the matters that had been lodged had been resolved prior to any formal hearing, and there still had (at that time) only been one anti-bullying order handed down out of the 411 applications received.

SDP Hamberger made some comments during his address that are worthwhile noting for employers. His comments around prevention of bullying complaints were particularly sound.  SDP Hamberger noted the need for good policies and procedures around bullying, stating ‘it should really go without saying these days that organisations need good policies outlining how people are to treat each other at work. They also need internal grievance procedures. Employee Assistance Programs and harassment contact officers may also be helpful’.

However, SDP Hamberger said that the key to dealing with workplace bullying was through ‘line managers’:

“I believe the key to tackling bullying in the workplace lies with line managers. Line managers must have the authority to resolve people management issues.  At the same time, line managers must be held accountable when they fail to treat people fairly and appropriately.  Organisations certainly need to provide training in people skills to their line managers.  But in my view training can only get you so far. In my experience there are some people who – no matter how much you train them – are just incapable of treating people the right way. What this suggests is that organisations who genuinely wish to minimise the risks associated with workplace bullying should give priority to interpersonal skills when deciding who to appoint to managerial positions.”

SDP Hamberger’s comments provide some food for thought for all employers.

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