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Work pressure, harassment and bullying are still costing workers and employers many weeks off work and thousands of dollars for individual compensations claims.

Workers under the pump who lodged mental stress claims took off a median 9.6 weeks with the median cost of each claim being $19,700, says the latest data from Safe Work Australia.

Work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying accounted for 8.4 weeks off work and $18,100.

Also, exposure to workplace or occupational violence resulted in an average 3.1 weeks off work and $6400.

Although overall the frequency of these and other mental stress claims, including exposure to traumatic events and suicide or attempted suicide, have fallen since 2001-2002, harassment and/or bullying has increased.

Also, these figures may underestimate the extent of the problem. “Workers’ compensation data may not be the best way of looking at trends in work-related mental stress as the ability to lodge a claim may be influenced by the legislative process and other external factors,” says the Safe Work Australia data.

For more details, visit the data.

Published on 5 June 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The stop bullying application that led to the national anti-bullying panel accepting applications for bullying that occurred before 1 January has been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

Since 1 January, under a new provision in the Fair Work Act 2009, workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work can apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for a stop bullying order.

As reported in an earlier e-bulletin, the full bench of the FWC recently ruled that a claim submitted on 9 January, which alleged that a worker had been bullied before 1 January, was within the FWC’s jurisdiction.

The worker’s employer, Peninsula Support Services Inc trading as Peninsula Support Services (PSS), had submitted that the FWC had no jurisdiction to hear the application because the bullying had occurred before the new laws had come into force.

The full bench sent the stop bullying application back to FWC Commissioner Peter Hampton for determination.

Commissioner Hampton then dealt with another contention submitted by the employer: as the employer wasn’t a constitutionally covered workplace, the FWC had no jurisdiction to hear the stop bullying application.

Commissioner Hampton assessed the claim and agreed with the employer. The application was dismissed.

He made no finding on the bullying allegations.

For more details, visit the ruling.

Published on 10 April 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

A worker has been ordered not to make comments about another worker’s clothes or appearance in the first stop bullying order from the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The FWC’s Senior Deputy President Drake made the order following a conference between the parties on 4 March.

Senior Deputy President Drake has also ordered the worker who was the subject of the application not to have contact with the applicant alone, not to send any emails or texts to the applicant except in emergencies, not to raise any work issues without notifying the chief operating officer (of the worker who was the subject of the application) or his subordinate, beforehand, and to exercise at the employer’s premises before 8.00 am.

The worker who lodged the application has been ordered not to arrive at work before 8.15 am.

“Parties have leave to approach to have the matter relisted for further conference should there be any difficulty with the implementation of the Orders,” Senior Deputy President Drake said.

For more details, visit the bullying orders.

Published on 27 March 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The full bench of the Fair Work Commission has dismissed an employer’s submission that the commission has no jurisdiction to determine stop bullying applications for bullying that occurred before 1 January.

Since 1 January, under a new provision in the Fair Work Act 2009, workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work can apply to the commission for a stop bullying order.

On 9 January, Kathleen McInnes applied for such an order, alleging she had been subjected to bullying from November 2007 to May 2013.

Her employer, Peninsula Support Services Inc trading as Peninsula Support Services (PSS), submitted that the commission had no jurisdiction to hear the application.

The matter was referred to the full bench, and the Commonwealth, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ai Group and the Australian Council of Trade Unions were invited to make submissions. Ai Group and the ACTU made submissions, but the other two declined.

The employer and Ai Group submitted that the commission had no jurisdiction to hear and determine claims involving alleged bullying that occurred before the start of the new law because it would make the law retrospective.

The full bench disagreed , saying it was “not persuaded that entertaining an application” for a stop bullying order based on bullying behaviour alleged to have occurred before the start of the new law would make the law retrospective.

“When considering the question of retrospectivity the authorities draw a distinction between legislation having a prior effect on past events and legislation basing future action on past events,” the full bench said.

The application is back before Commissioner Peter Hampton for determination of the stop bullying order.

For more details, visit the summary decision and the full decision.

Published on 13 March 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

 

The new anti-bullying jurisdiction has received 44 stop bullying applications in the first month of its operation.

Administered by the Fair Work Commission, the new anti-bullying laws started on 1 January.

Some applications have been dealt with already and six applications have been withdrawn. As required by the governing legislation, the commission says it commenced all matters within 14 days of receiving the applications.

The number of bullying applications per month may grow.

“January and February traditionally see a smaller number of lodgements with the Commission, particularly in relation to other individual-based rights disputes such as unfair dismissals and general protections,” said Commission President Justice Iain Ross.

“The time of year and the fact that this is a new jurisdiction means that the number of applications received to date is not necessarily indicative of the lodgement trends we will see in future.”

For more details, visit the commission’s anti-bullying website.

Published on 13 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.


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