Employers launch scheme to deny high school bullies jobs

Jobseekers will undergo character checks and could be refused employment if they were bullies at school, in a new scheme that has been described as “foolish” by a legal expert.

ClubsNSW is launching the scheme today with a trial involving 12 major employers and plans to next year roll it out to 1,400 clubs employing 43,000 staff across the state.

Under the program known as BULLYcheck, any person aged 22 or younger wanting to work at a registered club will need to consent to a verbal referee check from their high school.

If the school confirms the applicant was involved in high-level cases of bullying or threatening behaviour, the job application will be rejected.

ClubsNSW chief executive Anthony Ball said in a statement released today that ClubsNSW was going into schools with the message that the consequences of bullying will not be erased when people leave high school.

“If students have engaged in serious cases of bullying, cyber stalking or threatening behaviour, then clubs will not hesitate to reject their job application,” Ball said in the statement.

“If a student voluntarily raises their past bully history, but demonstrates remorse and a high level of community service, then their application may be considered on its merits. “

BULLYcheck is supported by the NSW Government, however, Andrew Douglas, partner at M + K lawyers, told SmartCompany the ClubsNSW scheme was “foolish”.

“To say once a bully, always a bully is really foolish and a blunt instrument,” says Douglas.

“It sounds good in theory but does not seem terribly appropriate; what we do as children I would hate to have visited on me.”

“What we are doing is judging people for the very time that we as a community accept that people have poor judgement.

“I can understand disclosure for people over 22, I certainly understand that, [but] referring back to childhood behaviour is really ordinary behaviour and I don’t think it is a valid test.”

While Douglas does not agree with the BULLYcheck scheme, here are his tips for avoiding hiring a bully.

1. Get your own culture right

Douglas says rather than scrutinising new hires, a business needs to create a positive culture to prevent bullying.

“The reality is that every person does bully at some stage in their life; the real issue is to take responsibility for your own culture,” says Douglas.

“Ensure values in the business are driven through the business not just the service outcome; if I say I am a respectful employer people should be inducted in that.”

2. Reward positive behaviour

Douglas says “punishment is not as successful as reward”, so businesses need to reward positive behaviour.

“Any behaviour that falls outside of business values should be dealt with quickly and people can celebrate the success of the good culture that draws people into it.”

3. Have a policy in place

Douglas recommends that businesses have a policy in place to prevent bullying and says human resources should be an integral part of every business.

“Have a workplace behaviour policy that looks across the board at bullying, harassment and discrimination,” says Douglas.

“That’s why HR has to be mainstreamed and not just seen as a bolt-on to a business.”

4. Disclosure statement

Douglas says if businesses do want to vet people for past bullying behaviour before hiring, they should require staff sign a disclosure statement in relation to their behaviour as an adult, rather than when they were at school.

“You could require a disclosure statement and if you are found to have been dishonest in that statement then it results in a summary dismissal,” says Douglas.

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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