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Compensation for this post was provided by Firths Compensation Lawyers. Opinions expressed here are my own.
There is a common conception that bullying is something that only goes on in the school yard. Unfortunately, the tactic of domination by fear, intimidation or physical abuse often carries on into adult years, and is increasingly found in the workplace. Regardless of where the blame rests, bullying in all its ugliness is unacceptable, and perpetrators are accountable for their actions. There are Australian laws in place to deter bullying and compensate victims.
Occupational Health and Safety
In 2011, The Work Health and Safety Act raised awareness of workplace bullying. The aim of the legislation is to avoid the escalation of bullying into a compensation or discrimination claim. Although the intention is noble, the incidence of workplace bullying is still on the rise. The system has failed in many cases to protect workers and their families suffering as a result of illness or injury. Managers and team leaders are accountable, and often struggle to reign in workplace bullies. In fact, evidence shows that in many cases, those in positions of power are themselves the workplace bully.
Modern workplaces can be pressure-filled environments requiring a high level of productivity for amassing a maximum profit. It’s true that not all employees are equal and some may perform better than others, but this should not be an excuse for bullying less efficient workers under the guise of encouragement to meet productivity targets.
When bullying becomes a compensation issue
Psychological and physical trauma as a result of workplace bullying can have a significant and lasting affect. It can manifest in health issues, reduced work productivity, and difficulties amongst family, loved ones and the broader community. As of 2010, the Productivity Commission Report stated that workplace bullying costs the nation up to $36 billion annually.
Compensation claims for mental stress alone have risen by well over 50 percent in the past decade. Psychological claims are most commonly attributed to work pressure, with a quarter of those claims caused by a combination of harassment and bullying. Rehabilitation services are stretched in dealing with mental illness caused by workplace bullying, and the difficulties are compounded by aggression from employers as a result of claims being processed.
A survey of injured workers, including those who had been bullied, highlights a number of obstacles toward recovery. Below are some of the causes of stress in employees seeking compensation.
- 42% dealing with insurers and employers
- 20% dealing with the compensation system
- 16% struggling with the injury or illness
- 13% financial pressure
The stress involved with rehabilitation often leads to an escalation of the problems. Compensation should always be undertaken with the guidance of a highly qualified legal team, such as Firths Compensation Lawyers, who empathise with victims of bullying and provide positive steps on the pathway toward better health.
Compensating bullying in Australia
At present in Australia, there are loosely connected mechanisms that assist in compensating bullying victims. Improved anti discrimination laws would go a long way toward clarifying the situation, but in the meantime, Firths Compensation Lawyers can give the best advice moving forward with your claim. Present avenues include:
- Claims under occupational health and safety legislation
- Workers compensation claims
- Claims under the anti-discrimination regime
- Unfair dismissal claims
- Claims for breach of the contract of employment
A cultural shift in the fight against workplace bullying is essential in stemming the tide of abuse. Intervention in the workplace with the support of enforceable legislation would go a long way toward improving workplace harmony and stopping the bullying.