Whether employees are in the office or at a worksite, employers must ensure both their physical safety and their psychological safety. Incidents can happen, though, even in the most carefully managed workplace. When a worker is physically injured at work or the target of bullying or harassment, it is important to know how to respond quickly and effectively to mitigate the harm and build a healthier work environment. Here is what you need to know.
Workplace bullying is a hidden problem and costs Australian employers on average of $17,000 to $24,000 per bullying claim. It may include offensive behaviours such as:
Harassment may include:
Preventing bullying and harassment is largely a matter of firstly setting clear standards and secondly effectively and repeatedly educating workers about these standards and the process for lodging a complaint.
Responding to a complaint that such behaviour has occurred is somewhat more complicated. It involves developing and communicating a procedure through which employees may report bullying and harassment. The process must involve neutral third parties (even outside the organisation if necessary) and preserve confidentiality for both the accuser and the accused.
There must also be procedures for investigation and dispute resolution, including at least one level of appeal. An employer must also be prepared to take action to address the incident including counselling, mentoring and even terminating the employment of someone found guilty of the prohibited behaviour. These rules have to have teeth, and employees need to know that for anti-bullying and anti-harassment measures to be effective.
Rolf Howard, Managing Partner, Owen Hodge Lawyers