DESPITE receiving more than 500 application, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has made only one stop bullying order since acquiring new powers to address workplace harassment and bullying early this year.
According to the latest Anti-bullying report from the FWC, 189 applications were made for stop bullying orders within the last quarter, bringing the total number of orders sought in the past 12 months to 532.
However, the Commission has handed down only one stop bullying order, in which an employee was ordered to have no contact with the applicant or to make comments about the applicant’s appearance.*
Interestingly, the parties in this case reached the agreement by consent, and the Fair Work Commission provided leave for either party to pursue remedy in case of contravention.
In the past year, 224 applications were withdrawn during proceedings, 111 were resolved and 36 were dismissed. Primarily, dismissals were made under section 587 of the Fair Work Act 2009, which sees applications dismissed if deemed irrelevant to the Act, vexatious or frivolous, or with little chance of success.
Unfair dismissal claims also increased in the last quarter by 190, reaching 3668 applications from July to September 2014. However, only 388 required court adjudication, or just over 10%. The majority were settled during conciliation.
AMMA executive director Scott Barklamb said the statistics were an important reminder for the resource industry about staying on top of training to minimise the risk of bullying and unfair dismissal claims being brought against employers.
“It is encouraging that bullying claims have remained significantly lower than first predicted, however any bullying at work is a problem that warrants attention and action to improve the workplace culture,” he said.
“Likewise, the rising number of unfair dismissal claims is concerning, but the right advice and information about an organisation’s rights and responsibilities around discipline and termination can keep such claims to a minimum.”
*UPDATE: The FWC’s one and only stop-bullying order was revoked on 16 December 2014 with the applicant stating that as a result of the process there had been negligible conflict between her and her supervisor. Decision:  FWC 9184.
To speak to one of AMMA’s workplace relations experts about these matters, contact your local AMMA office.
For more information about the Fair Work Commission’s most recent reports, click here.