Half of Australia’s small businesses not only lack an action plan to address workplace bullying, they don’t understand the legal requirements, according research undertaken by workplace relations specialist Employsure.
Conducted by Galaxy Research on behalf of Employsure, the Workplace Safety Index also found that amongst businesses with between two and four employees, only 40% know how to manage and address bullying in the workplace.
According to Employsure’s Senior Workplace Relations Adviser Josh Vikis, bullying cases, on average, cost employers between $17,000 and $24,000 and legal penalties can be as much as $500,000 for a category 3 offence and $3,000,000 for a category 1 offence in some states.
He said the Workplace Safety Index shows small businesses are leaving themselves exposed, adding that 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”.
Vikis identified three simple steps for small businesses to minimise the risk of bullying in their workplace:
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, employers should set the standard with their own approach and take extra care of their language, tone, behaviour, and manner when managing staff to avoid bullying complaints.”
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.”