Workplace bullying

The Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) (the Act) includes protections to help people with bullying in the workplace.

Who has access to these anti- bullying measures?

Queensland’s anti-bullying measures will apply to all workers who are not currently able to access the federal anti-bullying jurisdiction under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

What is considered ‘bullying’?

A worker is bullied at work if:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers of which the employee is a member, and
  • the behaviour creates a risk to their health and safety.

Bullying does not include reasonable management action.

What is reasonable management action?

Reasonable management action can include, for example: making decisions about an employee’s poor performance, taking disciplinary action, and directions about the way work is carried out. Reasonable management action which is carried out in a reasonable way is not bullying.

Management action that is not carried out in a reasonable way may constitute bullying.

How are workplace bullying protections different from discrimination protections?

Discrimination occurs when there is ‘adverse action‘, such as firing or demoting someone because of a person’s characteristics like their race, religion or sex.

In contrast, workplace bullying does not have to be related to a person or group’s characteristics and adverse action does not have to have occurred.

What to do if you are being bullied at work?

If you think bullying or harassment is happening at your work, you can talk to:

  • a supervisor or manager
  • a health and safety representative
  • the human resources division
  • a union.

Alternatively, you can apply to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) for an order to stop the bullying.

The QIRC has been given powers to be able to easily and quickly deal with applications for a stop bullying order. This may include contacting the employer or other parties to the application, conducting a conference or holding a formal hearing.

If the QIRC is satisfied that the worker has been bullied, and there is a risk that the worker will continue to be bullied, it may make a stop bullying order to prevent the worker being bullied at work.

What about the confidentiality of any information I provide to the QIRC?

Any information collected through these processes will be handled in accordance with the QIRC’s privacy obligations under legislation.

Workplace health and safety

Queensland employees also have protections from bullying in the workplace under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld). If you think you are being bullied at work, you may also consider lodging a complaint with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

The first step is to download the Guide for Preventing and Responding to workplace bullying and Dealing with bullying – a workers’ guide.

If you consider that your complaint meets the definition of bullying, you can call 1300 362 128 or lodge your complaint on line.

Further information

For specific information, contact your employer’s Human Resources or Industrial Relations area or your union.

Queensland Industrial Relations Framework

A comprehensive review of Queensland’s industrial relations laws resulted in the government adopting all 68 of the review’s recommendations which will promote a fair and balanced industrial relations framework. A significant majority of the recommendations will be given effect though the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (the Act). The Act received assent on 9 December 2016 following its successful passage through the Queensland Parliament on 30 November 2016. Most provisions of the Act commenced on 1 March 2017.

The Act provides a framework for the conduct of industrial relations within the State’s industrial relations jurisdiction that is fair and balanced and supports the delivery of high-quality services, economic prosperity and social justice for Queenslanders. The defining features of the State industrial relations system are:

  1. a set of minimum employment conditions and standards
  2. collective bargaining as a cornerstone for setting wages and conditions including good faith bargaining and other consultation
  3. requirements to promote consultation between employers and employees
  4. a set of individual rights to fair treatment
  5. effective, transparent and accountable governance and reporting obligations for all registered industrial organisations and employer associations
  6. the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) as a strong and effective independent umpire.

The Act covers employers and employees to whom the federal Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) does not apply. Generally this means employers and employees of the Queensland government and local governments are covered by the Queensland Act.

Last updated 01 August 2018