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Bullying and harassment

How do I verify or appropriately investigate a bullying or harassment claim?

If a WorkCover claim form has been submitted, you must follow the standard procedure for lodging a claim. Any complaint or allegation of bullying or harassment should be taken seriously. Each situation will be different so it is important to have an agreed procedure for dealing with bullying and harassment reports to ensure consistency. Where no issue resolution procedures exist, an employer must follow the procedure set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007.

Once a report has been made, the following principles should guide the employers response:

  • treat all matters seriously
  • act promptly
  • non-victimisation of person who reports
  • support for both parties
  • neutrality
  • communication of process
  • confidentiality
  • documentation
  • natural justice meaning that the person accused should be treated as innocent unless found to be guilty, prompt investigation should occur, the accused person should be informed of the allegations and given a chance to express their side of the story and if the claims are found to be true, any disciplinary action should fit the seriousness of the matter.

Three approaches that can be used to assist in resolution of bullying and harassment incidents include:

  • direct approach
  • discussion involving an independent third party
  • investigation.

These can be used in combination or on their own. They can also be used as a step-by-step approach to resolution. It is important for the person who reported the situation to agree with the proposed approach for resolution.

Complaint resolution is a very important part of dealing with bullying in the workplace.

Employers should make sure that the people affected by the behaviour are satisfied their concerns have been dealt with appropriately.

Some options for resolution, depending on the situation, include:

  • gain commitment to cease the behaviour
  • run an awareness update
  • review the no bullying policy with all employees and managers
  • provide mediation between the parties (where both parties agree to mediation and to the mediator)
  • provide training (for example communication skills, diversity awareness, inter-personal skills)
  • offer counselling to the person who has committed the bullying (where necessary)
  • offer support and counselling to the affected person
  • move the person who has committed the bullying away from the affected person
  • discipline the person who has committed the bullying
  • require an apology.

After a situation has been resolved, an employer should also examine the work situation to identify and address any underlying risk factors that may have contributed to the bullying occurring.

Visit the WorkSafe Victoria website and use the search function to find more information about bullying, and how to prevent and respond to bullying at work.

What do I do if a bullying claim is made against a senior manager / Chief Executive Officer(CEO)?

If a WorkCover claim form has been submitted, you must follow the standard procedure for lodging a claim. In the case of a complaint of bullying against a senior manager/ CEO, that person should not be involved in the issue resolution process and if the organisations standard bullying procedure involves the senior manager / CEO, someone else should be nominated to fulfil their role in handling the complaint, for example a member of the board of management. Where possible, the organisations standard procedure for dealing with reports of bullying should be followed.

More information

Supported by the Community Sector Investment Fund (external link - opens in a new window).