The number of bullying and harassment cases are rising as employees become more concerned about trying to protect their jobs, according to a leading workplace law expert.
Joydeep Hor, managing partner of Harmers Workplace Lawyers, also says that changes to unfair dismissal laws under the Rudd Government’s Fair Work bill will lead to a further increase in bullying cases.
Hor says his company has seen a spike in the number of bullying and harassment claims as the likelihood of becoming retrenched increases. He claims that employees may exaggerate or even fabricate instances of bullying (such as being called names or being the victim of jokes) to ensure job stability.
“What we have been seeing, which is not surprising given the volume of retrenchments, is that people are raising issues that are either fabricated or…reasonably trivial,” he says.
“The reason why that’s happening is that employees are seeing a strong likelihood of them being made redundant and they form a view that they will somehow label themselves as a sort of ‘protected species’. Employers fear that if that person is made redundant it could trigger an unfair dismissal or legal claim.”
Hor also says that when Government changes to industrial relations laws occur in July, the number of cases will grow.
“I think what’s going to happen is that unfair dismissal will be more of a concern, and it’s going to increase enormously. As to whether harassment and bullying claims will be escalated…probably yes, because more employers will be more apprehensive about an unfair dismissal claim.”
But there isn’t much businesses can do to stop these cases, Hor says, other than maintaining proper procedures on workplace bullying and harassment.
“I don’t think you can stop it. The reason we wanted to publicise the issue was because employers need to be diligent.
“All they can do is back the vigour and integrity of their own processes about grievances and be sure they’re doing things by the book. We’re being called on more and more to help them earlier on in the piece, because there are so many dangers if they get it wrong.”
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