Only 1 in 2 Australian small businesses understand the legal requirements and have a defined action plan to address bullying, according to Employsure’s Workplace Safety Index. This figure dips even further in businesses with 2–4 employees, with only 40% knowing how to manage and address bullying in the workplace.
Employsure’s Senior Workplace Relations Adviser Josh Vikis said that small businesses are leaving themselves exposed as bullying can happen in any workplace, regardless of size and industry. “Too few employers are aware of what they can and can’t do when dealing with difficult behaviour in the workplace. They are busy trying to run their business, but not knowing this kind of information leaves a business very vulnerable,” he said.
In general, the average bullying case amounts to between $17,000 and $24,000 for employers. Legal penalties alone carry a heavy price tag, with as much as $500,000 for a category 3 offence and $3,000,000 for a category 1 offence in some states.
Three simple steps that employers can do to minimise the risk of bullying in the workplace have been provided by Employsure as follows:
Step 1: Stay connected
Consult with employees and health and safety representatives on a regular basis to ensure that all staff are educated on what constitutes bullying and understand that you are available at all times to hear any of their concerns.
Step 2. Set the standard
Develop a bullying and harassment policy and communicate this policy to all current and new staff. Outline the behavioural expectations of employees and also include detailed reporting and response procedures for staff, so that there is a clear course of action if bullying does occur.
Further, to avoid bullying complaints, employers should set the standard with their own approach and take extra care of their language, tone, behaviour and manner when managing staff.
Step 3. Communicate, educate and enforce
Ensure staff are not only aware of the bullying and harassment policy, but take the time to ensure they understand the details of the documents. It is also vital that the policy be enforced across the workplace and that all allegations are taken seriously and dealt with in accordance with the policy. Review and brief staff regularly — make it part of the organisational culture.
“Outline the available support and assistance for anyone who feels bullied so they know who to turn to. In addition, implement workplace values and missions around the behaviours of staff and approach to work which model the standards of the workplace,” concluded Vikis.
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