Parliamentary committee calls for new rights for workers to sue employers for bullying

A parliamentary committee has recommended new rights for workers to sue employers for bullying and tough penalties, after uncovering widespread bullying in Australian workplaces.

The House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Education and Employment tabled its report on the inquiry into workplace bullying called Workplace Bullying: “We just want it to stop” to Parliament yesterday.

The inquiry received 319 submissions and the subsequent report recommends a uniform national approach to address workplace bullying, including an agreed definition of what constitutes bullying behaviour.

It said criminal sanctions should be available and that workers needed the right to launch legal action if they were bullied.

Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the government would consider the report’s recommendations in detail.

“Current methods of addressing workplace bullying can be largely reactive, occurring after workplace relationships are beyond repair,” he said.

“Workplace bullying needs to be resolved proactively before it escalates and requires intervention and prosecution.”

However, in a dissenting report, Coalition MPs expressed concern that the introduction of penalties could make employers reluctant to seek outside advice on dealing with bullying because of fears they could draw the attention of regulators.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also expressed its concerns about “regulatory overreach”.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the AIG has concerns about the committee’s recommendation for a new adjudicative process for bullying claims which would coexist with existing and proposed new laws, regulations and codes.

“Workplace bullying is primarily regulated under work health and safety laws and this should not be altered,” he said

“It is in the interests of employer, employees and other parties that the laws are clear. We are not convinced that adding another layer of regulation is the answer.”

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