Employment Law

How does the law define workplace bullying?

Published in: January 2018

For many people struggling at work due to bullying, there are a number of laws in place for Australian employees they can utilise via the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Act) if they are facing any difficulties at their place of employment.

Workplace bullying

The definition of bullying can be found in s 789FD of the Act, and is defined as when a person or a group of people behave unreasonably towards an employee or a group of employees at work, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

The types of behaviours that may constitute bullying can include some of the following:

  • conduct that is aggressive or intimidating;
  • comments that belittle or humiliate a person;
  • spreading malicious rumours;
  • teasing, practical jokes or initiation rites;
  • excluding the person from work-related events;
  • work expectations that are unreasonable, which can include too little or too much work, or work that is not aligned to the person’s skill level;
  • displaying offensive material;
  • demanding a person to behave in an unreasonable manner.

It is important to note that for behaviours to meet the statutory requirements of bullying, the behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable, and that it must create a risk to health and safety.

What behaviour will be considered as “unreasonable?”

The applicable test for what behaviour is considered to be unreasonable for the purposes of the Act is an objective one, and is mainly concerned with what a reasonable person would consider to be unreasonable under the same circumstances. Additionally, there is no need for the behaviour in question to be the same for it to be considered as repeated. Finally, there is no need for evidence of actual harm to be shown as a result of bullying, but rather, there must be evidence that there is a “real” risk to health and safety.

The relevant behaviour must be “at work”

For the laws to apply, the behaviour must take place at work. However, “at work” has not been defined but within the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), the term has been given a broad meaning, and can include work activity, rather than a workplace or premises. Therefore, travel or a meal break can also fall within the definition of “at work”.

What type of employee is covered by the laws?

The types of employees that are covered by the laws are corporations, Commonwealth government employees and some maritime employees. For the purposes of the legislation, a worker is defined broadly and can be found in the WHS Act. Generally speaking, a worker can include a person that performs the duties of employees, contractors, subcontractors, some volunteers, or work placement students.

Bullying at the workplace can be extremely unpleasant, and if any person has any issues at work, please seek the assistance of a lawyer who will be able to help.    

Contact Eddy Neumann Lawyers on (02) 9264 9933 or
by email info@eddyneumann.com.au for clear and expert advice.
You will be directed to one of our experienced lawyers who can assist your needs.


Level 1, 255 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW 2000 | PH 02 9264 9933 | FAX 02 9264 9966 | info@eddyneumann.com.au

© 2007 - 2016 Eddy Neumann Lawyers  |  Site by EWide  |  Disclaimer