CCIQ submission to workplace bullying inquiry

Wednesday 18 July, 2012 | Tags: Workplace and Employment Policy

CCIQ has today told a federal government inquiry that better education and awareness are what is needed to address workplace bullying, not additional regulatory or compliance burdens.  

Members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment were in Brisbane to hear submissions on the Inquiry into Workplace Bullying.

As Queensland’s peak business organisation, CCIQ is supportive of strategies and initiatives encouraging the prevention of workplace bullying. CCIQ recognises that workplace bullying is an important social issue that can have lasting impacts on members of the Australian community, and thus supports strategies to enhance education and awareness.

However, we do not believe that the incidence of workplace bullying within Queensland workplaces warrants the implementation of further legislation in this area.

CCIQ considers that there is a sufficient regulatory framework in place to prevent workplace bullying, and effectively address it where it does occur. CCIQ is therefore opposed to the introduction of additional regulation, or increasing the compliance activities of associated existing legislative frameworks. Currently, the cost and burden of regulatory compliance is one of the most important ongoing issues facing the Queensland business community, therefore if anything, actions are required to reduce current burdens in this area.

Nick Behrens, General Manager of Advocacy at CCIQ, told the Inquiry that “legislating further would simply add an additional layer of regulation in the workplace that would be duplicative and confusing for both employers and employees.”

The mechanisms available under the current framework address a broad range of behaviours and provide for awareness, issue resolution, redress, punishment and compensation. Indeed, the volume of regulation currently in place that could potentially address workplace bullying is so extensive that CCIQ considers that work is required to reduce the high level of confusion that currently exists within the community about which government agencies are responsible for dealing with workplace bullying.

Mr Behrens spoke strongly in support of the draft National Code of Practice on Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying, which will, when settled, serve as practical guidance material on how employers and workers can meet their duties and obligations under workplace health and safety legislation.

There is also a need for better coordination between agencies to reduce the risk of complaints being cross-referred and to provide better services and support to the victims and businesses.  Mr Behrens suggested that “a single point of entry or cross-agency protocols are required to streamline the referral process and allow for the collection and dispersal of accurate and meaningful data in the area of workplace bullying.”

Further, we note that bullying often involves a range of behaviours and actions that originate from social issues outside the workplace and are not necessarily appropriately regulated by legislation or the employer.

CCIQ believes that individual workplaces need to take responsibility and undertake proactive initiatives to reduce the potential for workplace bullying issues within their business, with a particular focus on early prevention and intervention.

Employers should be encouraged to focus on maintaining a workplace culture that embraces an atmosphere of trust and respect in which bullying is not tolerated and where disputes are resolved early. CCIQ is strongly supportive of increasing the awareness and accessibility of current government and industry initiatives that aim to prevent workplace bullying.

As such, CCIQ believes that the Inquiry into Workplace Bullying should focus solely on enhancing non-regulatory instruments and initiatives to prevent and address existing issues. Our recommendations include:

  • Reducing current regulatory burdens and compliance measures
  • Enhancing focus on early intervention and preventative strategies
  • Improving coordination between agencies and stakeholders

CCIQ’s recommendations are consistent with those contained in a report made by the Queensland Ministerial Reference Group in late 2011 on workplace bullying. The Reference Group’s members represented a broad cross-section of stakeholders, and  CCIQ regards the report as a common sense approach to this issue. 

That report focuses on the need for:

  • coordinated education campaigns and public information sessions;
  • the gathering of more extensive and better quality data from Australian workplaces on the prevalence of workplace bullying; 
  • a review of existing workplace policies on bullying;
  • improved issue resolution processes; and
  • the provision of training on appropriate managerial responses to bullying. 

We have encouraged the new Queensland Attorney-General to release the Reference Group’s report.

The Committee indicated that it intended on tabling its inquiry report in Parliament in November this year.