Workplace bullying workplace harassment – Why has this research been done?

  • To better understand the prevalence of workplace bullying and harassment in Australian workplaces and to identify workplace risk factors associated with the occurrence of bullying and harassment.

What did we find?

  • Bullying was measured using both a widely accepted international definition and the Australian definition used by Safe Work Australia. The prevalence rates using the international and the Australian definitions were similar: 9.7 per cent and 9.4 per cent of Australian workers respectively reported they had been bullied in the last six months.
  • Of the seven types of harassment measured, the most common form of harassment experienced by Australian workers was reported as being sworn at or yelled at (37 per cent), followed by being humiliated in front of others (24 per cent).

What do the findings suggest?

  • Self-reported bullying is common in Australian workplaces and is associated with poor psychological health. Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) and psychosocial factors such as job demands, job control and job resources are also related to the occurrence of bullying and harassment.

You can download a copy of the report into Workplace bullying workplace harassment in pdf format – bullying-and-harassment-in-australian-workplaces-australian-workplace-barometer-results

Workplace bullying workplace harassment – Originally published at

A word doc version of the report can be downloaded from the link above.

An understanding Workplace bullying workplace harassment is vitally important for all organisations, failure to take action to prevent or respond can be costly and could constitute a breach of your duty of care. Australian Workplace Training & Investigation can assist with training and investigation of Workplace bullying workplace harassment issues. Please contact us or 029674 4279 or

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations

Bullying laws

Bullying laws cover company boards after landmark decision – Board directors and chairpersons will be able to seek anti-bullying orders against each other following a landmark ruling from the Fair Work Commission that opens up workplace bullying laws to senior levels.

Lawyers expect the decision will lead to similar, senior-level claims and warn they could prove a distraction to the daily business of company boards.

The case concerned the governing board of South Australia’s remote Aboriginal lands, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Inc, and its chairperson Trevor Adamson’s claims of bullying against general manager Richard King and deputy chairperson Bernard Singer.

Mr Adamson claimed the pair were refusing to deal with him, “disrespecting his wishes”, “orchestrating” events to prevent quorums, stopping him from accessing minutes and defaming him.

Mr King and Mr Singer strongly rejected the allegations and called for Mr Adamson’s claim to be thrown out, arguing he was not a “worker” covered by the Fair Work Act’s anti-bullying jurisdiction.

But commissioner Peter Hampton said the act adopted a “very wide approach” to the definition of worker in that all that was needed was “the undertaking of work for a person conducting a business or undertaking”.

“Further, a broad approach to the definition recognises that workplace health and safety hazards and risks do not discriminate based on legal relationships or whether a person is paid.”

He found Mr Adamson’s activities and duties as a chairperson represented “work” for APY Inc, supported by the fact that he was paid significant additional remuneration in the role.

“Mr Adamson may not be considered to be a ‘worker’ in the traditional sense of the difference between a manager/employer and a worker,” he said. “However, the context in which the expression is used here is different.”

Despite this, the commissioner dismissed Mr Adamson’s application given he had not been re-elected chairperson since and so was not at “future risk” of being bullied at work

Ashurst employment partner Vince Rogers said the decision was the first to find company directors were covered by the bullying jurisdiction and the commission’s “broad view” would allow for claims at “peer level” but also “up or down” between board members and executives.

In particular, he said claims could be “quite rife” in not-for-profit organisations where board members had different points of view on issues important to them.

“You can see it being used as a vehicle for where disputes arise or an impasse has been reached at board level,” he said. “Time will tell how far [the commission] wants to intervene.”

He said such cases would require senior board members to “respond substantially”, and noted the APY case went on for several days, which would “surely have been a distraction” to those managing the organisation.

“Certainly, because of this decision, I expect a lot of other cases to engage in the area. Definitely watch this space.”

If you require assistance with training in regard to Anti Bullying or other workplace issues please contact us –

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations




Anti-bullying laws disciplinary process

Anti-bullying laws disciplinary process – Anti-bullying laws might be used by employees facing a potentially adverse disciplinary process to delay or halt it.

Anti-bullying vs disciplinary process: Fair Work Commission asked to find the balance

A recent Fair Work Commission case demonstrated an inventive way in which the FWC’s anti-bullying jurisdiction can be used by employees facing disciplinary proceedings. It may have opened a can of worms for employers.

In Lynette Bayly [2017] FWC 1886, the FWC issued an interim order preventing her employer from taking any further actions to finalise an investigation into the conduct of an employee or to impose any disciplinary sanction on the employee arising from the investigation or to terminate the employment of the employee.

Ms Bayly had made a section 789FF “stop bullying” application to the Commission alleging she had been subject to bullying at work.  The alleged bullying included the investigation by the employer into her conduct.

Despite the application, the employer continued the investigation and, as part of that process, advised her that draft findings had been made. Ms Bayly was then stood down and directed to attend a meeting to give her response to the draft findings. The investigation would then be concluded and any disciplinary outcomes of the investigation determined.

Ms Bayly’s lawyers wrote to the employer indicating she was unfit for work for a period that extended beyond the date of the proposed meeting.  They sought agreement from the employer that it would not require her to provide a response, attend a meeting or impose any disciplinary sanction in relation of the allegations under investigation.  The employer declined, confirming its intention to proceed with the disciplinary process.

As a result Ms Bayly sought an interim order from the Commission preventing her employer from continuing with the investigation, or from taking any disciplinary action arising from it, pending the determination of the substantive bullying claim.  The interim order was sought under section 589(2) of the Fair Work Act which is in the following (simple) terms:

“The FWC may make an interim decision in relation to a matter before it.”

Can the interim order be made under these circumstances?

The employer opposed the interim order:

  • Ms Bayly had not provided a substantive response to the investigation;
  • the investigation was being conducted in a “reasonable manner”;
  • any interim order made by the Commission in the exercise of its anti-bullying jurisdiction must be directed towards preventing a worker from being bullied at work;
  • the draft findings of the investigation are adverse to Ms Bayly; and
  • if Ms Bayly were to be dismissed, she has other remedies available to her.

The employer claimed that the Commission was being asked to prospectively injunct the employer from dismissing the employee. As stated in the judgment,

 “That is, to essentially use the anti-bullying jurisdiction to step in and prevent a possible adverse action, without consideration as to whether that dismissal is justified.  The orders sought go beyond what would ordinarily be available in relation to an anti-bullying application and should not be made.”

It did not, however, say that the Commission had no power to make the order.

Commissioner Hampton started from the basis that he could only make an interim order if there is a serious issue to be tried and after determining where “the balance of convenience” lies. He then observed:

It also appears to me that the consideration of the prima facie case and the balance of convenience must be assessed having regard to the nature of the substantive application, the jurisdictional context in which the application is being considered, and the circumstances of the parties.

In a matter such as this, I also consider that the nature of the remedy provisions of s. 789FF of the Act [the anti-bullying provisions] should inform the consideration of the request for interim orders and the nature of any discretion to be exercised.  However, the purpose of the interim orders, including to preserve the capacity to advance the substantive application in appropriate circumstances, must also be considered.”

Should the interim order be made?

The next issue was looking at the particular circumstances of this case. The Commission took into consideration:

  • claims made in the substantive anti-bullying application about the retrospectivity of the conduct allegations;
  • the fact preliminary adverse findings had been reached against Ms Bayly;
  • Ms Bayly’s medical condition;
  • concerns expressed about the employer’s process and stated intention to finalise the investigation and make a decision on disciplinary action which could include dismissal of employment.

Commissioner Hampton was satisfied

“… that the s. 789FC application [the anti-bullying provision] has prima facie merit and there is sufficient likelihood of success to justify the preservation of the status quo pending further consideration and determination of the substantive matter by the Commission.  The allegations made by [the employee], if ultimately supported by evidence, would be grounds to support a finding that there was reported unreasonable conduct whilst she was at work within the meaning of s. 789FD of the Act.  Adopting the same caveat, those circumstances would also suggest that a relevant risk to health and safety arose.” 

Interestingly, a key aspect of the anti-bullying jurisdiction ‒ that no orders can be made once the employment relationship is at an end (except in very limited circumstances) ‒ was identified as,

“…a significant factor directly relevant to the balance of convenience and the exercise of any discretion”.

Commissioner Hampton recognised that circumstances might change the balance of convenience, so the interim orders might need to be reviewed.

How does this affect future disciplinary proceedings?

This decision is an interesting and concerning development, one that should be watched carefully by employers. It may well be a warning of what is to come for employers undertaking investigations and disciplinary processes.

The interim order has effectively halted (for the time being) the employer’s disciplinary process. The likely next step is the resolution of the substantive bullying claim.

Does this mean employers and employees will be in a race to the court if there is a potentially adverse disciplinary process? Commissioner Hampton did have some general words of caution for employees (or their representatives):

“given the scheme of the Act, interim orders of the nature being considered here would not be issued lightly.  The direct intervention of the Commission at such an early stage of proceedings should be exercised with considerable caution.  Further, the mere indication that a disciplinary process was involved in the complaints of workplace bullying, without much more, is unlikely to trigger the balance of convenience for such action.  Of course, each application must be considered in its own right and circumstances. 

As [the employer] contended, the Commission should be alert as to the undesirability of permitting the anti-bullying jurisdiction to simply be used to circumvent reasonable disciplinary action and its consequences.  In this case, there are some particular circumstances that have justified the making of the interim order.”

Notwithstanding Commissioner Hampton’s words of caution, it would not be surprising to see many applications of this kind in the context of disciplinary proceedings.

To put themselves in the best position to defend such applications employers should;

  • ensure any investigation is conducted fairly and objectively and does not, in the way it is undertaken, of itself constitute bullying (ie. it is “reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner”);
  • Consider out-sourcing bullying investigations to suitably qualified and experienced investigators.
  • Be able to demonstrate adverse consequences if a disciplinary proceeding is delayed by the making of such an interim order (including impact on other staff in the organisation and the integrity and efficacy of disciplinary processes).

Australian Workplace Training and Investigation can assist with professional and timely investigations of workplace issues such a bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and other areas of misconduct such as Code of Conduct breaches, IT and email misuse, theft and fraud, please contact us if you require assistance on 02 9674 4279 or

AWPTI – workplace investigations Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations

Anti-bullying laws disciplinary process

The author Phil O’Brien is a highly experienced and skilled workplace investigator and trainer who can take the stress out of conducting workplace investigations into bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and other forms of misconduct.

You can contact me on 02 9674 4279 or

This is general information only. It does not replace advice from a qualified workplace investigator in your state or territory.  It is recommended that should you encounter complaints in the workplace that you seek advice from suitability qualified and experienced workplace investigators.

Anti-bullying laws disciplinary process

Workplace Bullying Training Sydney NSW

Workplace Bullying Training Sydney NSW – AWPTI can assist you by providing engaging and informative workplace training courses that address workplace bullying.

Incidents and complaints of bullying in the workplace are commonplace and it is recommended that employees respond in a timely and professional manner. Employers have a duty of care to provide a workplace that is free from bullying. Having effective and up to date training in place can assist you to satisfy your duty of care.

Workplace bullying is any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine, or threaten and which creates a risk to health and safety.


The session aims to provide practical skills to help enable your staff and managers to recognise what is and what is not workplace bullying and to offer strategies to deal with bullying in the workplace.

The session will also provide participants with information to understand what is and what is not workplace reasonable management action.


At the end of the workshop participants should be able to:

  • Understand and identify what is and what is not bullying in the workplace
  • Understand and identify what is and what is not reasonable management action
  • To gain an insight in to why people bully and what you can do about it
  • Provide examples of workplace bullying.
  • Understand the legal ramifications of bullying in the workplace

The course is divided in six parts;

Part One: What is workplace bullying

Part Two: What is reasonable management action

Part Three: What should you do

Part Four: Behaviours in the workplace

Part Five: Power Emotion and Self Control

Part Six: Legal Responsibilities

The course can be run and a time and location to suit you and your employees, a method preferred by a number of our clients is to run it as a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session.

AWPTI can also assist you with training sessions that address Workplace harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination. Check out our blog and other pages for more information about workplace bullying and how we can assist with bullying investigations –

If you would like more details, please contact us –

AWPTI – Workplace training Sydney and through-out NSW  and national wide, interesting and informative Workplace training courses
Misconduct training, bullying training, harassment training & sexual harassment training


Misconduct Investigations Sydney NSW

Misconduct Investigations Sydney NSW – workplace misconduct comes in many and varied forms, misconduct investigations can be complex requiring experience and expertise.

Common types of misconduct that are investigated are;

  • Inappropriate behaviour leading to complaints and grievances,
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Breach of policy or Code of Conduct
  • Inappropriate use of IT or other resources
  • Misuse of social media
  • Misuse of IP and confidential information
  • Inappropriate behaviour at work functions (especially Christmas parties) and conferences
  • Fraud, embezzlement or theft.

Misconduct can range from serious to a less serious nature; it may be a number of incidents or a single act.

When investigating workplace sexual harassment it is important to get all the facts and evidence, conduct the process in a timely and professional manner and make determinations  adhering to procedural fairness guidelines.

If you are unsure about conducting misconduct investigations, contact Australian Workplace training and Investigations, we can help, contact us on 02 9674 4279 or

Check out our other blog articles about bullying, sexual harassment and sexual harassment investigations.

AWPTI provides professional  misconduct investigations in a timely manner within your budget

AWPTI – Bullying investigations Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations

Unfair dismissal recently at FWC

Unfair dismissal hearing on 20 January 2016 in Sydney, the FWC found that a HR manager’s decision to dismiss an employee who couldn’t perform the inherent requirements of her role was reasonable, despite some “regrettable” lapses in process, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.

In Sao Duarte v The Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Association of NSW (full text here) involved an employee who in March 2016 emailed the CEO and advised that interpersonal issues at work were adversely affecting her performance and health. The CEO advised that he would monitor the situation.

A month later the HR manager asked the employee to attend a fact-finding meeting about allegations she had altered a client’s weekly medication pack without authorisation. The employee took leave the next day, claiming that that she was suffering from a workplace injury that had been exacerbated by bullying, she did not return to the workplace.

The employer subsequently deemed that Ms Duarte was incapable of performing the inherent requirements of her job due to a major depressive disorder, she was dismissed on the HR manager’s advice after she failed to respond to a show-cause request.

Ms Duarte claimed in her application to the FWC that her dismissal was unfair because she had been subjected to bullying over a  period of time, and was provided with no assistance after complaining about the bullying. She further stated that the fact-finding meeting made her feel targeted, as if she were being “groomed for dismissal”.

She didn’t deny being unable to perform the inherent requirements of her job at the time, but said she might have returned to full duties in the short-to-medium term.

The HR manager gave evidence to the FWC that the dismissal decision was based solely on medical evidence about Ms Duarte’s inability to do her job, even with modifications, and insisted her performance and conduct were irrelevant.

The HR manager said that after seeing references to alleged bullying in the employee’s medical report, she conducted a “fulsome” review (at 47) of her employment records and found no formal complaint. She claimed she only became aware of the employee’s email to the CEO after the dismissal.

Commissioner Booth found it was reasonable for ParaQuad to dismiss the employee after finding she couldn’t carry out the inherent requirements of her role, those requirements required her to be alert, handle emergencies and deal with clients with significant disabilities.

The Commissioner found that it was “regrettable” that the HR manager, having become aware of the allegations, didn’t “extend a conciliatory hand” by, for example, offering to have a conversation with the employee.

“[The manager] effectively asserted that there was no bullying or harassment problem because [the employee] had not followed the correct grievance process,” the Commissioner said.

She described the HR manager’s approach as “form over substance” and said that while it’s preferable for an employee to follow workplace protocol when making allegations, bullying could clearly occur without complaint.

“The art of good human resource practice includes responding to signals as well as addressing issues raised through formal channels.”

The CEO’s failure to take appropriate action, which would “certainly” have involved referring the email to HR, was also regrettable, Commissioner Booth said.

“The CEO said he’d monitor the situation, but gave no evidence of further action. “In my view this was an inadequate response to the concerns raised,” she said.

In dismissing the application, she noted the worker was pursuing a review of her workers’ compensation application, which could prove a more appropriate forum for her grievances.

Lessons for employers

When determining if someone can perform the inherent requirements of their role, employers are advised look to independent medical examinations.

If a complaint of bullying is made it should not be ignored even if it does not fit within the usual process or procedure.

AWPTI – workplace investigations in Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Workplace investigations misconduct, bullying, harassment & sexual harassment investigations

Please contact us if you require assistant with the investigation of misconduct complaints to training to help you business avoid such issues.

This is general information only. It does not replace advice from a qualified workplace investigator in your state or territory. It is recommended that should you encounter complaints in the workplace that you seek advice from suitability qualified and experienced workplace investigator

Unfair dismissal


Anti bullying policy training

An anti bullying policy should be considered to “best practice” in any organisation.  The policy should outline,

  • What is unacceptable behaviour
  • What behaviours may constitute bullying.
  • What is not bullying
  • What are the responsibilities of employees at all levels in relation to acceptable behaviour and bullying?
  • The process of reported and investigating complaints of bullying
  • Possible resolutions to bullying complaints

It is becoming increasingly common for employees to assert they are being bullied when reasonable management action has taken place, such as feedback and performance counselling.

In relation to workplace behaviour, it is widely accepted that employees should treat one another with courtesy and respect. However, in many cases this is not a message that is reinforced. The workplace anti-bullying policy, along with other relevant policies, provided the opportunity to highlight the concept of respect.

Modern Australian workplaces are made up of diverse groups of people, this means that employees may have different views about what is acceptable behaviour and how to conduct themselves at work.

It is important that employers create a clear and consistent message regarding behavioural expectations by;

Clearly defining:

  • Workplace bullying
  • Unacceptable conduct
  • Procedures for reporting bullying or unacceptable conduct
  • The investigation process
  • Outcomes of substantiated complaints of bullying in the workplace
  • Confidentially and victimisation


As important as having a policy, training should be conducted to reinforce the policy and allow employees to ask questions and understand that workplace bullying poses a serious threat to health and safety and that organisations have a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to prevent and/or respond to bullying.

If your organisation need help draft an anti-bullying policy or creating a facilitating training AWPTI can assist.

AWPTI – workplace investigations in Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Workplace investigations misconduct, bullying, harassment & sexual harassment investigations

The author Phil O’Brien is a highly experienced and skilled workplace investigator and trainer who can take the stress out of conducting workplace investigations and provide you and your employees with up to date a relevant training in the areas of misconduct, investigations, procedural fairness, reasonable management action, performance management, bullying & harassment and other issues facing employers and workplaces.

Contact me at or 0409 078 322 or via

This is general information only. It does not replace advice from a qualified workplace investigator in your state or territory.  It is recommended that should you encounter complaints in the workplace that you seek advice from a suitability qualified and experienced workplace investigator.

anti bullying



Anti Bullying Application rejected – Reasonable Management Action.

A case of Reasonable Management Action. On 19 August 2016, the Fair Work Commission handed down a decision dismissing an order to stop bullying. This was only the seventh of its type relating the FWC’s bullying jurisdiction.

In Xiaoli Cao v Metro Assist Inc; Rita Wilkinson, the Applicant,  employed y a charity, sought orders from the FWC against her manager to stop bullying under s 789FC of the Fair Work Act 2009.

The alleged bullying conduct included overloading her, increasing her workload, requesting she perform “unreasonable” tasks, making accusations about her work ethic and demeaning her in front of her work colleagues and other allegations.

Notwithstanding steps taken following two mediation sessions, the Applicant filed a general protections claim on 12 January 2016 and made a bullying complaint to SafeWork NSW.

In exercising its jurisdiction, the FWC considered the Applicant’s evidence that her manager’s actions were not reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

The employer gave evidence that the actions taken did not constitute bullying and that, where possible, it had actioned the Applicant’s requests to address her concerns and also established measures to rebuild the work relationship between the two parties.

The Commission found that the evidence did not support allegations of unreasonable behaviour by the manager and that the employer had executed reasonable management action and also carried out fair and transparent investigations into her allegations.

This decision demonstrates how reasonable management action done in a reasonable manner will not be considered as workplace bullying.

If you are your managers are unsure about what is and what is not reasonable management action and workplace bullying, I strongly recommend you consider the AWPTI Management Essentials training program, details can be found at

AWPTI – workplace investigations in Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Workplace investigations misconduct, bullying, harassment & sexual harassment investigations

The full text of the decision can be found here-

Reasonable Management Action

Exit interview – complaints of bullying,
harassment and sexual harassment


An employee tells you during an exit interview that they were bullied, harassed or sexually harassed and that is the reason they are leaving the company, they name the alleged perpetrator but refuse to provide details as they are leaving and say that they want to put the bad experience behind them

What can or should you do?

This is a difficult situation to be faced as a HR professional or manager when conducting an exit interview

Your choice could be;

Do nothing, after all you have no details and no evidence. But remember, the easy way out could come back and bite you later.

Start an investigation, but where to start, if you speak to the alleged perpetrator how will you respond when they ask the usually, what exactly is it claimed that I did, when did this happen.

To conduct an effective investigation you will need to establish lines of enquiry;
• What happened – full details including what was said
• When and where
• Are there any witnesses
• Is there any other evidence

Without further details it is very difficult to conduct an effective investigation, remember you can’t set up a desk in the corner with a sign that reads ‘complain about Mr X here’

Keep records, you may be able to follow up on some information in an informal manner

If you don’t have one establish reporting mechanism for matters of misconduct, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment etc, this will encourage employees to have faith in the process that if they make a complaint it will be addressed.

Ensure that complaints are dealt with in a confidential, timely and professional manner, this will further encourage employees to have faith in the process
Conduct training with purpose;

  • Clearly outline employees behavioural expectations and responsibilities
  • Clearly define what is bullying, harassment, sexual harassment etc and how it will be dealt with by the company
  • Reinforce that the company has a reporting and investigation mechanism to deal with complaints in a confidential, timely and professional manner
  • Provide guidance for employees who feel that they are being bullied, harassed or sexually harassed

If you do not have effective training and investigation processes in place please contact AWPTI so that we can assist you.

AWPTI – workplace investigations in Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Workplace investigations misconduct, bullying, harassment & sexual harassment investigations