Economic stess blamed for work bullying
Testifying at the Perth hearing of the House of Representatives Education and Employment Standing Committee inquiry into workplace bullying on Wednesday, UnionsWA president Meredith Hammat said national workers’ compensation claims for harassment had almost doubled in three years.
The problem was likely to get worse as organisations downsized and restructured in response to the global economic downturn, though bullying remained largely under-reported as many victims simply switched jobs, the union leader said.
“People are under increasing stress at work and there’s research that tells us where organisations are restructuring, where there’s contracting out or privatisation, often workplace bullying and mental health issues are a consequence,” Ms Hammat told reporters after her testimony.
“(It) creates an environment where individuals are under stress in an organisation that’s under stress.”
Workplace harassment costs the Australian economy up to $36 billion a year, according to the Productivity Commission, while the consequences for individuals are often far worse – including suicide and mental health issues.
Ms Hammat said bullying was a growing trend and national legislation, including a code of practice and an independent arbiter, were needed to address it.
“Often there’s nowhere for (bullied employees) to go external to the organisation,” she said.
“So if someone has a problem with their manager or supervisor, often the resolution process in the workplace will require them to talk to the person who is doing the bullying in the first place.”
Earlier in the hearing, the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry testified it was hard to sack perpetrators under current unfair dismissal laws, but Ms Hammat said that was no excuse for failing to act.
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