Workplace Bullying & Harassment Policy

Overview

In line with its core values and its Code of Conduct [see Flare Policy for this document], [the Company] is committed to building and maintaining a positive work environment by providing all of its employees and contractors with a workplace that is safe and conducive to productive activity.

This policy is aimed at achieving fair treatment and a work environment that is free of bullying, harassment, vilification and victimisation.

This policy provides guidance to both employees and managers about the standards of workplace behaviour, outlines employee responsibilities around bullying and harassment, and details how to report incidents of conduct that would breach this policy.

Our non-bullying and non-harassment commitment

[The Company] is committed to providing and maintaining a professional, productive and safe work environment, free from bullying, harassment, vilification and victimisation.

At [the Company], we believe that all employees should be able to work in an environment free of bullying and harassment. We recognise that employees cannot perform to the best of their abilities if someone at [the Company] is bullying or harassing them. That is why we will not tolerate bullying or harassment in our workplace. Bullying is a risk to the health, safety or welfare of others at work, and it can breach Work Health and Safety laws. Bullying can also be unlawful harassment if it is based on an unlawful reason such as sex or race—see the [the Company]’s Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy.

[The Company] sees that it, together with all employees, have mutual legal obligations not to endanger the health, safety or welfare of other [Company] employees, suppliers, clients, customers, visitors and guests of [the Company] or other people they meet at work, and is committed to providing a workplace where those obligations can be met.

How does this policy apply?

The policy applies to you if you are employed by [the Company] (whether full-time, part-time, casual or temporary) or if you are a contractor to [the Company].

This policy applies to conduct:

  • in the “workplace”. Note that in this policy, the workplace includes not only company premises but also any place where you are present for a purpose connected with work. This includes, but is not limited to, a client or customer’s premises and a hotel, club or function centre if you are attending a work-related conference or attending client or work team social events such as drinks and celebratory dinners. It may include your home (for example, if you are working from home);
  • that may affect the business of [the Company], its reputation, its customers, suppliers, staff or contractors or impact on relationships at work or work performance;
  • that occurs both within and outside normal business hours.

All employees are required to treat other employees respectfully and not engage in bullying or harassment of any kind. This applies particularly to avoiding any conduct of a sexual nature that may constitute bullying or harassment, but is not limited to such conduct. For conduct of a sexual nature, see also see the [the Company] Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy.

An important summary of the obligations under this policy

If this Policy applies to you

YOU MUST:

  • accept your responsibilities to the people you deal with during the course of your employment or engagement;
  • treat people with respect and courtesy at all times and in a fair manner;
  • respect the privacy of others in the workplace and avoid offensive conduct or behaviour; and
  • report any breaches of this policy that you witness.

YOU MUST NOT:

  • harass or bully a job applicant, employee, contractor or another person in the workplace; or
  • victimise a person who has made a complaint, or any person involved in the investigation of a complaint, including a witness and/or the person complained about.

What is “Harassment”?

Harassment refers to any form of behaviour (physical, verbal or non-verbal) that is unwelcome and that a reasonable person would have anticipated would:

  • humiliate someone;
  • offend someone; or
  • intimidate someone.

Harassment may be a form of unlawful discrimination (for which see the Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy), or it can occur separately to discriminatory behaviour.

Workplace harassment usually consists of a pattern of unwelcome behaviour. However, it can consist of just one act. It may be direct, unintentional or deliberately directed at an individual or a group of people. Behaviour which may not offend one person may be unwelcome or offensive to another. It can range from subtle intimidation to more obvious aggressive actions.

There is no requirement that the harasser intends to offend or harm in order for it to be unlawful. All that is required under the law is that a reasonable person would consider that the person being harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the behaviour in question.

Harassment may take the form of:

  • Unlawful and general harassment (see the Anti Discrimination and Equal
  • Employment Opportunity Policy for more details);
  • Sexual Harassment (see the Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment
  • Opportunity Policy for more details); or
  • Bullying

All forms of harassment are unacceptable in [the Company] workplace and will involve a breach of either this policy, the Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, or both, and may be against the law. You should take note of both policies and commit to ensuring compliance with both.

It is important that you consider your actions carefully when interacting with people in the workplace. Different people and cultures have diverse attitudes about verbal and physical actions. When in doubt, you should refrain from saying or do anything that may be perceived to be unwelcome, offensive, humiliating, belittling, abusive, threatening or intimidating

Examples of Harassment

Harassment is defined as behaviour that is directed at an individual or group of people which, because of its severity and/or persistence, is likely to create a hostile or intimidating environment and detrimentally affect an individual’s participation in employment or education. Harassment is determined by reference to the nature and consequences of the behaviour, not the intent of the initiator, and occurs in circumstances where a reasonable person would have expected the behaviour to be offensive, humiliating or intimidating.

Harassment in the workplace can take many forms. It can be overt (obvious) or subtle, direct or indirect (for example where a hostile feeling or environment is created without any direct attacks being made on a person).

Harassment (including sexual harassment and bullying) can be physical, verbal or written. It can include words, pictures or statements. It can be transmitted by post, phone, fax, video, text message, email, a screen saver or via social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

Some forms of verbal harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • making fun of someone;
  • telling offensive or insulting jokes;
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone;
  • asking repeated or intrusive questions about someone’s personal life;
  • imitating someone’s accent;
  • spreading rumours;
  • obscene telephone calls, unsolicited letters, faxes, SMS or email messages;
  • threats or insults;
  • the use of language that is not suitable in the workplace; and
  • name calling.

Some forms of non-verbal harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • unwelcome practical jokes;
  • displaying or circulating racist cartoons or literature;
  • displaying offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers;
  • sending explicit, offensive or sexually suggestive text messages, social media messages or emails;
  • mimicking someone with a disability;
  • ignoring someone or being particularly cold or distant with them;
  • not sharing information;
  • offensive hand or body gestures;
  • unnecessarily leaning over someone; and
  • continually ignoring or dismissing someone’s contribution in a meeting or discussion.

Some forms of physical harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • pushing, shoving or jostling; and
  • putting your hand or an object on someone or into their clothes.

The most common form of workplace harassment is sexual harassment. Under Australian anti-discrimination law, there is a specific test for sexual harassment which differs from other forms of workplace harassment. This test has a lower threshold.

Sexual harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature which is unwelcome and in circumstances in which a reasonable person, with regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility of the person being offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct. There is no requirement that the harasser intends to offend, humiliate or intimidate another person. A person’s intention is irrelevant.

Sexual harassment of a fellow employee is unlawful even when it occurs outside of work hours and at a non-work location.

Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to:

  • making a sexual advance or persistent or continual requests for dates;
  • unwanted sexual compliments or excessive and unwelcome flirting;
  • requests for sexual favours;
  • suggestive comments about someone’s appearance or body;
  • remarks of a sexual nature about a person, their sex life or physical appearance;
  • asking questions or divulging confidences of a sexual nature;
  • leering or staring at a person or parts of their body;
  • suggestive behaviour, unnecessary physical intimacy, unwanted body touching or
  • physically molesting a person,including standing too close, excessively lengthy
  • touching or body contact, touching; patting; pinching; kissing or embracing someone;
  • physical conduct of a sexual nature;
  • displaying or transmitting sexually offensive posters, handouts, emails or screen savers;
  • suggestive letters and drawings, including email;
  • gender-based insults or taunting;
  • smutty or sexist jokes; or
  • sexually suggestive behaviour including offensive body and hand movements;
  • indecent exposure, stalking, sexual assault and rape.

Sexual harassment does not refer to behaviour which is based on mutual attraction (which is consensual and acceptable to both parties), friendship and respect.

This policy applies to any work-related context, including conferences, work functions, social events and business trips. No employee at any level should subject any other employee, customer, supplier or visitor to any form of sexual harassment. [The Company] will not tolerate sexual harassment under any circumstances. The standards established by state and federal legislation set out the minimum standards of behaviour for all Employees in relation to sexual harassment.

For more details about sexual harassment, see the Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy. Sexual harassment is likely to be a breach of that Policy as well as this Policy, and is likely to be against the law as well. Some sexual harassment will be classed as criminal conduct.

What is “Bullying”?

Bullying in a workplace context is a form of harassment and involves repeated unreasonable behaviour towards a person by another person or group of people, either at the workplace or in relation to the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice, or that creates a risk to health and safety.

Unreasonable behaviour is such that a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, could anticipate the behaviour would offend, humiliate, degrade, intimidate, undermine or threaten a person.

Bullying can occur between a worker and a manager or supervisor, or between co-workers and other third parties present at the workplace. Both men and women can be the targets and/or the perpetrators. Bullying is not limited to the behaviour of a senior employee towards a more junior employee. A junior employee can equally be guilty of bullying a more senior employee.

Bullying behaviour can range from very obvious verbal or physical assault to very subtle psychological abuse. Examples of bullying conduct include:

  • repeated verbal or physical abuse;
  • yelling, screaming or offensive language;
  • intimidating gestures or behaviours such as banging on tables;
  • ongoing practical jokes or repeated pranks or jokes in relation to a particular employee (note that some so-called “pranks” or “initiation” events can be serious
  • criminal matters such as assault or breaches of Work Health and Safety Laws);
  • excluding or isolating employees;
  • psychological harassment;
  • intimidation;
  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job;
  • giving employees impossible jobs or setting unreasonable expectations;
  • deliberately changing work rosters to inconvenience particular employees
  • undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information vital for effective work performance;
  • withholding work-related information or constantly changing work targets or guidelines;
  • constant or public criticism or belittling;
  • repeated sabotage, isolation, constant undermining or giving someone too little,
  • too much or inappropriate work; and
  • intrusive monitoring or micro-managing.

Bullying is a safety hazard and poses a risk to a person’s physical and psychological safety. Under Workplace Health and Safety legislation in each state, employees are under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of others and themselves. As a result, if you engage in bullying behaviour, as well as acting in breach of this policy, you are likely to be acting in breach of health and safety laws. This could expose you to prosecution and or a financial penalty.

Also, as with all safety hazards, if you witness any bullying conduct, you are under a duty to report it as a safety hazard. Failure to do so would amount to a breach of [the Company]’s safety policies and of the terms of your employment.

What is Not Bullying?

Any reasonable management action is not classified as bullying. Reasonable management action includes, but is not limited to, the setting of reasonable performance goals, reasonable supervision, reasonable legitimate and constructive performance management, counseling and discipline conducted in a reasonable manner and reasonable actions by a supervisor or Manager, including issuing reasonable and lawful directions.

Single incidents may not be considered to be bullying. However, isolated incidents of sufficient severity may be harassment and will be treated seriously by [the Company].

What is “Vilification”?

Vilification is a particular form of harassment. It is also a criminal offence.
Vilification is inciting hatred of persons on the basis of their race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexuality. For example it may be:

  • equating a person with a particular attribute with an “animal”;
  • displaying or communicating offensive material on the basis of an attribute;
  • calling people names and making offensive comments on the basis of an attribute;
    emails, “jokes” or graffiti that incite hatred toward a person or group on the basis of an attribute; or
  • threatening to harm a person with a particular attribute that affects how they dress (e.g. due to religious beliefs) unless they “learn to dress like everyone else”.

What is “Victimisation”?

Victimisation means any negative treatment of, or disadvantage imposed on, a person because they make a complaint or are involved in an investigation of a complaint about bullying or harassment under this policy. Victimisation also includes any conduct which disadvantages a person who is assisting or supporting a person who has been subjected to inappropriate behaviour.

Victimisation may take many forms including intimidation, exclusion from team or company activities, withholding opportunities, dismissing an employee or refusing a promotion, threatening a person or limiting their access to benefits.

Victimisation is a breach of this policy and in most cases is against the law.
If an employee lodges a complaint pursuant to State or Federal legislation, it is unlawful to victimise that employee or any person assisting with the complaint. There are penalties for individuals and corporations, which include fines and imprisonment.

Assisting Bullying, Harassment, Victimisation or Vilification

You will also breach this policy and may be breaching applicable laws if you assist or encourage another person to engage in the conduct prohibited by this policy. It is your responsibility not only to ensure you do not engage in prohibited behaviour yourself, but also to ensure you do not contribute to such behaviour being carried on by another person.

Bullying or harassment outside the work premises

You should be aware that bullying and harassment that takes place outside the work premises can still be unlawful conduct in the context of employment. You should note the definition of “workplace” at 3.2 above. By way of example, you must not engage in such conduct at a work-related Christmas party; during phone calls or visits to another employee at his or her home. The policy also applies at all times whilst travelling on business.

If you attend other work sites to perform work, you are also prohibited from bullying or harassing employees working there.

Key message—if you are repeatedly behaving in an unreasonable way to another person which does or could intimidate, offend or humiliate another person, you are likely to be engaging in harassing or bullying behaviour in breach of this policy and, in some cases, the law.

Consequences of a breach of this Policy

If you breach this policy, you will be subject to disciplinary action which may include:

  • counselling;
  • a verbal or written warning;
  • transfer;
  • demotion; or
  • termination of employment, either with or without notice.

You should be aware that you can be held legally responsible for your conduct as well as being subject to disciplinary action. This also applies if you aid, abet or encourage other persons in inappropriate behaviour such as bullying, harassment or victimisation.

Sexual harassment and victimisation is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) as well as anti-discrimination legislation operating in every State and Territory—see the Anti Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy. Under some circumstances, [the Company] can be vicariously liable (that is, it is responsible at law) for that conduct. Similarly, some bullying and harassment may breach criminal laws (for example, an initiation ceremony may be dangerous and so be a breach of Work Health and Safety legislation, or physical harassment may be assault under the criminal law in each State and Territory). A breach of this policy may therefore result in a complaint being made against the offending employee and/or [the Company] in a court, tribunal or commission.

As a result of its potential liability for the actions of employees, [the Company] will take all potential breaches of this policy seriously. You need to be in no doubt about this and the potential serious consequences for you of engaging in conduct in breach of this policy.

Our respective responsibilities

[The Company]
[The Company] has a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent bullying, harassment, victimisation and vilification from occurring in the workplace. This involves educating employees about inappropriate behaviour, putting this policy in place, implementing grievance procedures and ensuring compliance by all in the workplace.

If an employee makes a complaint regarding the behaviours discussed in this policy, [the Company] will take it very seriously and will deal with the complaint sensitively and in a confidential manner, so far as natural justice allows. The complaint will be investigated and, if substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Any employee making a complaint will not be treated adversely or victimised for making a complaint. [The Company] recognises the importance of ensuring the complaint procedure is effective, confidential and fair.

Managers
Managers have an important role in the prevention of inappropriate workplace behaviour.

Firstly, Managers must ensure that they themselves do not harass, bully, victimise or vilify other employees or clients.

Secondly, Managers must ensure that their team understand and implement this policy. When they observe inappropriate behaviour, Managers must take steps to stop it and warn the person of the consequences if the behaviour continues. If a person approaches them with a complaint about inappropriate behaviour, they should take appropriate steps to resolve it. Appropriate steps may include informal discussions or in the case of a serious issue more formal investigation may be undertaken to establish the facts of the complaint.

Employees
Every employee is under a duty to ensure that he or she does not bully, harass, victimise or vilify other employees, suppliers, customers, contractors or other persons, or aid, abet or encourage other persons in inappropriate behaviour. You should be aware that you can be held legally responsible for your unlawful acts and may also be subject to disciplinary action. In short, you must comply with this Policy and any related policy.

You also have a duty to report conduct that you see happening to others. You should not simply let inappropriate conduct continue. Report the conduct to your manager or supervisor, or if the conduct is by the manager or supervisor, to a more senior person at [the Company].

Again, as above, do not think bullying is only something that affects more junior employees. If you think you see a senior manager being bullied, perhaps by their boss, do not think that just because they are a senior manager, they can cope with it or that it is somehow acceptable and you do not need to do anything. Report it.

What to do if you consider you are being bullied, harassed, victimised or vilified or you witness such behaviour

If you think someone is engaging in conduct in breach of this policy, either against you or against another person, you have a number of options. What you must NOT do is just ignore the wrongful behaviour. Options are as follows:

You may tell the person to stop.
This is often the simplest way of dealing with an issue as often the person concerned isn’t aware that their behaviour is humiliating, offending or intimidating someone or in breach of this policy.

You may speak to a supervisor, manager, [insert appropriate office, for example, Human Resources or a Contact Officer].
If the behaviour does not change, or you feel uncomfortable dealing with the issue directly, you may speak to a supervisor, manager, [insert appropriate office, for example, Human Resources or a Contact Officer]. They can explain options available for addressing the issue.

When speaking to a supervisor, manager, [insert appropriate office, for example, Human Resources or a Contact Officer] information and assistance can be sought on an informal basis. Alternatively, a formal complaint can be submitted.

You may make a formal complaint to [the Company].
A formal complaint may be made in writing or verbally. The complaint must be made, given or sent to either a manager or [insert appropriate office, for example, Human Resources or a Contact Officer].[Insert method, for example, Form X, via email to …, ]. See [the Company] Personal Grievance Policy for more details.

The complaint should set out who the complaint is about, what the issues complained about are, details of any information or evidence that support the complaint and what you would like done about the situation. Having received a complaint, [the Company] will determine the appropriate course of action on a case by case basis. This may involve an investigation into the issues complained about.

[delete if not relevant]
You may make an anonymous complaint to [the Company] via [insert method, for example, via a hotline, or to a named person].
As stated above, the [insert method] may be used for making a formal complaint but can also be used to report an issue anonymously should you wish to do so.

[delete if not relevant]
You may seek help from the Employee Assistance Program
If you need any help dealing with the effects on you of any bullying or harassment you may be suffering or witnessing, a free and confidential counselling service is available to all employees and their immediate family via [the Company]’s Employee Assistance Program.

The Employee Assistance Program is designed to provide employees and their immediate families with confidential professional support via specialist counselling services for work and personal issues. This includes but is not limited to stress as a result of potential exposure to any form of harassment or bullying at or outside the workplace.

For more information on the Employee Assistance Program see [set out how employee can obtain information on the EAP, for example, the pamphlets and posters on company notice boards, the brochures in all lunch rooms, available from Human Resources].

Procedure for dealing with criminal conduct.

In relation to complaints about breaches of this Policy that are also about criminal offences such as assault, rape or sexual assault, or which breach the work health and safety laws, the matter must be referred to the [insert title of senior position] who will advise the complainant of the means to notify the appropriate authorities. Employees will be advised of the option of police support or intervention in the event the alleged circumstances are considered to warrant a report to the police.

Please note that [the Company] may be obliged to report alleged criminal offences such as rape or sexual assault, depending on the State in which the alleged crime occurs.

More Information

If you would like more information about this policy and your obligations under the policy you should speak to your supervisor, manager, contact officer or Human Resources [adjust or rename as necessary].

Free Workplace Bullying & Harassment Policy Template

This free Australian Workplace Bullying & Harassment Policy template will outline your organisation’s bullying policies to help keep employees safe and help prevent your organisation from compliance and liability issues.

By downloading this template, you agree to use it at your own risk and under your own legal advice. Nothing on this site should be considered legal advice.