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Workplace bullying

"Bullying" in the workplace means treatment of a person, or a group, that:

  • is unfair
  • is repeated or ongoing
  • makes people feel embarrassed, victimised, humiliated, threatened or undermined.

The bully can be anyone within the workplace including a manager, a supervisor or a co-worker.

Bullying behaviour can be:

  • physical or verbal abuse
  • nitpicking
  • constant put-downs
  • teasing
  • spreading gossip
  • excluding people
  • unreasonably criticising peoples' work
  • assigning too much, or inappropriate, work
  • withholding information to undermine work performance.

Giving feedback and constructive criticism, raising concerns about work performance, disciplining or dismissing an employee, are not bullying if they are done in a reasonable way.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, employers are compelled to provide a safe workplace and take steps to recognise, assess and control hazards, including bullying behaviour.

What to do about bullying

If you think you are being bullied at work, keep a record of what is happening and if possible, talk to your manager or supervisor, or a Human Resources officer, union representative or a contact person. If you can't do this, or if the problem isn't solved in the workplace, contact SafeWork SA for advice.

From 1 January 2014, workers (including employees, contractors, apprentices or volunteers) may also apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop workplace bullying. Contact the Fair Work Commission to find out more. Note that complaints to the Fair Work Commission require that there is a risk that you will continue to be bullied at work.

If the bullying involves physical abuse or threats, criminal laws may apply.

If the bullying or your complaints result in your dismissal, you may be able to make an unfair dismissal claim. If you leave your job as a result of bullying, you may also be able to claim unfair dismissal. Unfair dismissal claims generally must be made within 21 days.

Bullying which relates to

may be unlawful and covered by Equal Opportunity laws. You may be able to lodge a complaint with us. Contact us for advice.

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