Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, has released a statement, in response to the move by the Australian Government to give the Fair Work Commission (FWC) the authority to resolve complaints related to workplace bullying.
“Today’s announcement that the Australian Government will give the Fair Work Commission (FWC) the power to deal with complaints about workplace bullying is likely to cause more problems than it solves. Bullying is a serious issue, but it is a work health and safety issue and should not be mixed up with industrial relations,” Willox said.
According to Willox, workplace bullying is largely misunderstood and trying to solve disputes within the realm of industrial laws as proposed by the government would likely lead to even more confusion and increase disputation. He believes the matter is a problem that falls within the jurisdiction of work health and safety laws, which have a strongly preventative focus.
“The proposal begs the question of what types of orders would be appropriate for an industrial tribunal to issue in respect of bullying complaints from employees; surely not compensation. If so, the proposal will lead to a raft of speculative claims from employees and a marked deterioration in workplace relations,” Willox said.
“Industry recognises the significant costs and other negative impacts of workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is an issue that employers take very seriously,” he added.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, workplace bullies could be fined up to $33,000 under the Government’s proposal that victims forward their complaints directly to national bodies rather than state health and safety authorities.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the Fair Work Commission would begin considering a complaint within 14 days in order to settle them faster. However he was silent on whether or not the Commission would be granted extra funding to execute the proposed system.
Ai Group is one of the business groups that have argued against the proposal.
“Work health and safety laws, regulations and codes are the most appropriate regulatory approach to address workplace bullying, not the Fair Work Act and the Fair Work Commission,” said Willox
“Bullying complaints and the high community cost of bullying can best be addressed by a renewed emphasis on prevention. Governments need to devote more resources to working with industry groups and other stakeholders to educate employers, employees and the community on what workplace bullying is and how it should be prevented and dealt with. The Government’s proposed approach is not the answer,” he said.