Managing bullying and harassment claims within the workplace

As HR departments around the country continue to work to maintain a healthy and productive workplace, the fight against bullying in the workplace continues to be an issue. With complaints on the rise, HR departments get bogged down determining what is a misunderstanding around a counseling or improvement session and what is bullying and harassment within the workplace.

Some employees have mistakenly filed complaints for bullying and harassment in the workplace after receiving performance reviews or being counseled on performance/ behavioural issues. According to the 2017 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace, reports of bullying have doubled in the previous 12 months.

Managers and supervisors conducting standard performance reviews or counseling sessions around behavioural or performance issues have been flagged by employees as bullying incidents. Any complaints around bullying and harassment need to be taken seriously, but company policy and procedures need to be thoroughly explained and in many cases repeated to reduce the likelihood of a misunderstanding. There can also be questions around an employer’s liability if an employee knowingly and willingly breaks the rules and has an accident that could have been prevented.

Issues surrounding improper uniform/dress code and mobile phone use while at work tend to be constant issues supervisors strive to eradicate. Employees using mobile phones while on duty lead to loss of productivity and can distract employees from their overall duties. Improper dress code issues can pose a far more serious problem. Workplaces vary as do required uniforms and expectations around mandatory use of personal protective equipment. Hard hats, safety glasses, steel capped boots, gloves and high visibility clothing can be viewed as an inconvenience to some employees. However the proper use of the safety equipment reduces accidents and injuries.

When a supervisor or manager offers counseling and performance reviews around issues like these, it is best to consult your employee handbooks and policy and procedure manuals. Are these policies thoroughly explained and do you have documentation that shows the employee has been informed of the policies? Are the policies unilaterally enforced?

GetSet works very hard to mediate issues between our employees and host employers. We work to have a clear understanding of the situation and circumstances work closely with all parties to resolve the issue and work closely with employees to ensure a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Don’t get caught out, make sure your policies and procedures and thoroughly explained and everyone is properly inducted. If you have any doubts, give us a call!