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Home > News > 2016 > July > Recent bullying case highlights prevalence in the workplace

Recent bullying case highlights prevalence in the workplace

gossip.jpgA recent case involving the bullying of a long-serving teacher by their principal at a Melbourne Catholic school has yet again highlighted the ongoing prevalence of this insidious issue in the workplace.

As reported in Workforce earlier this month, the case involved a series of four incidents of bullying of the teacher by the principal including the principal's requirement that the 20-year serving teacher “undertake an induction program and be mentored by a junior employee.” 

In this case, the mentor was not a teacher, had not been assigned to review any other employees and had previous "unpleasant dealings" with the teacher being mentored.

A decision by the principal “to assign a business manager to review the teacher's role as an occupational health and safety representative (OH&S)” was also found to be “errant nonsense” with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) stating “the role was not for an employer to review”.

In its determination of the case, the FWC found that “four incidents constituted repeated unreasonable behaviour that were likely to have caused distress, which posed a ‘real risk’ to teachers mental health...” and “had ‘no doubt’ that the events [the teacher] complained of had affected [their] wellbeing”.

IEUA-QNT Assistant Branch Secretary Treasurer Paul Giles said the case reflected the sad reality that bullying continues to be a major cause of injury in the education sector, despite legislation prohibiting harassment and bullying behaviours which holds employers accountable for its prevention.

“Everyone in the school community has the right to feel safe and respected,” he said.

“Being bullied at work impacts not only on the workplace environment but its effects also filter into the homes and family lives of members.

“Employees who are subject to bullying in the workplace experience high levels of stress and anxiety, often to the point where they need to seek medical advice and require time off work, sometimes for extended periods of time.

“Many employees do not have enough sick leave to cover an extended absence from the workplace and thereby suffer financial hardship due to their inability to work. 

“Workplace bullying is therefore a significant health and safety issue which needs to be addressed,” he said.

Mr Giles said under the Fair Work Amendment Act employers are responsible for preventing workplace bullying. 

“The legislation holds both the employer and the alleged perpetrators accountable for bullying behaviours and requires the Commission to investigate and resolve complaints of bullying quickly.

Regardless of the source of the bullying – colleagues, managers, students, parents or community members – employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their staff including minimising the risk of exposure to behaviours which can cause these types of injury.

IEUA-QNT has developed a range of materials designed to help members identify and assist Chapters in formulating a workplace bullying policy. This included the Protection from workplace bullying fact sheet.

For more information or if you feel you are the victim of workplace bullying, contact your union organiser, staff representative or our union office to speak with one of our Industrial Services team 

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.