4 things you need to know about the new Fair Work Act

There’s no denying that workplace bullying can cast ripples through a victim’s professional life, but until now Australia has lacked formal legislation to protect those affected. From January 1, 2014, the government will swap this outdated system with legislation that forces employers to tackle bullying in the workplace and better enforce victims’ rights. The new legislation, which forms part of the 2009 Fair Work Act, will see a series of shifts in the way bullying claims are dealt with by employers and dole out severe penalties to employers that look the other way. This is your essential guide to the revamped Fair Work Act.

Employees can lodge bullying claims through the industrial tribunal

Under the previous Fair Work Act, bullying allegations were considered part of a set of general laws including health and safety, common law and workers’ compensation. However, the new legislation enables any worker experiencing victimisation to involve the Fair Work Commission in the complaint. The industrial tribunal also pledges to take bullying reports seriously by beginning the resolution process within 14 days of receiving the report.

If you’re tempted to ignore bullying claims, be warned – the new Fair Work Act has turned negligence into a costly exercise. Any employer who doesn’t deal with an employee’s crisis in a timely manner may face hefty fines from the Federal Court – $51,000 for corporations and $10,200 for individuals.

The Act isn’t limited to direct employees

Rather than full-time employees, the new laws strive to protect everyone involved with a business. This means contractors, freelancers, apprentices, interns and trainees are entitled to lodge claims if they find themselves being mistreated or singled out. Under the new Act, the definition of “worker” also extends to company directors and board members.

Bullying claims aren’t limited exclusively to the workplace

It’s no secret that bullying can take various forms. The new Act strives to expand definitions of bullying by considering claims made by current employees attacked by colleagues on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Workplaces are expected to clarify and enforce their bullying policy

Ultimately, the new Fair Work Act calls for employers to seek legal advice, understand the new definitions of bullying and communicate the policy to staff members effectively. The legislation asks business owners to take bullying seriously and shoulder responsibilities when it comes to addressing complaints.

This new legislation is part of a government campaign to crack down on workplace bullies and ensure victims have their voices heard. Have you familiarised yourself with the new legislation. What moves are you making to protect your employees and your business?

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