Oz workers left idle 'may claim compensation under national bullying laws'

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 28, 2012 06:30 hrs

Workers in comfortable jobs will now be able to claim compensation for being left idle under national laws drawn up to combat bullying, it has been revealed.

Employer groups have hit out at Safe Work Australia's "nanny state" rules, outlined in a draft code of practice that would be admissible in court cases.

The code lists "not providing enough work" as a form of "indirect bullying", along with constantly changing deadlines or setting timelines that are difficult to achieve.

It advises employers to ban pranks and discourage "exclusive clubs or cliques", so workers are not "ostracised" by colleagues.

The national code reflects the spirit of the federal public service policy on bullying, which even prohibits "eye-rolling responses" that might "diminish a person's dignity."

The Australian Industry Group's representative on the board of Safe Work Australia, Mark Goodsell, said that employers would start paying "go-away money" to avoid court cases.

"Bullying is the new black," the Daily telegraph quoted Goodsell as saying.

"Every time something happens that an employee doesn't like - including reasonable and necessary and constructive criticism and performance management - they will say they feel bullied.

"They latch on to some sense of entitlement that sends them down the compensation path, and then you have a pattern of 'go away' money.

"The problem is, it's easy for people to make an allegation and it is expensive and difficult for companies and management to rebut it," he saod.

Safe Work Australia was forced to remove the words "bully" and "victim" from an earlier version of its draft code, after objections from WorkCover in NSW and WA that the terms would "label" people.

Correspondence released through Freedom of Information show that WorkCover NSW also convinced Safe Work to remove a statement that "individuals should be sensitive about how they are perceived by others."

The latest draft has been re-worded to state that workers and bosses might be "unintentional" bullies.

"In some situations, behaviours may unintentionally cause distress and be perceived as bullying," the document states.

"For example, a manager or supervisor in a position of power may have a management style that seems to be strict or disciplinary when it is in fact bullying.

"Conversely a leader may have a style that is too relaxed ... characterised by a tendency to avoid making decisions, inadequate or absent supervision of workers, inappropriate delegation of tasks to subordinates and little or no guidance or performance feedback being provided to workers," it added.

The code has been put on ice pending the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry into bullying, ordered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. (ANI)

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