Prevent bullying in your business

Develop and implement strategies to protect workers from bullying.


Step 1: Learn about bullying

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed at an employee or group of employees. Bullying can happen in any workplace and can also happen outside of work hours, at work-related events and on social media.

Some examples of bullying include repeated:

  • verbal abuse
  • hostile behaviour
  • undermining a worker's work performance or position
  • unfair allocation of tasks and/or working hours
  • unreasonable demands

Key stats and facts

How does bullying affect your business?

Bullying at work can harm your business in several ways. It can lead to lower productivity, reduced morale and increased absences and mental injury claims. It could even lead to staff resignations, requiring additional time and money to hire and train new staff.

What are your rights and responsibilities at work?

Employers must provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and free from risks to health, including psychological health, so far as is reasonably practicable. This means doing everything a reasonable person in the same position would do.

Employers must consult with employees on a range of workplace issues including health and safety issues that affect, or are likely to affect, them.

Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace, and the health and safety of others. They must also cooperate with employers to create a safe environment, and they must not deliberately cause harm.

Watch these videos on workplace bullying to learn more

Step 2: Consult your employees

Consultation can be done in a number of ways. Depending on your workplace, it can be as simple as casually walking around your workplace having a conversation, or as formal as setting up a health and safety committee. 

Good consultation has lots of benefits – it leads to better decision making and greater cooperation and trust between employers and employees, who get a better understanding of each other’s views. 

Consultation isn't just good practice though, it's actually a legal requirement for employers. Employers must consult with employees including health and safety representatives (if any), about matters that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect, their health and safety. This includes identifying whether bullying may be a hazard at the workplace, and working out how to eliminate or reduce the risk of it occurring. At a minimum, it must involve sharing information about an issue, giving employees reasonable opportunity to share their views on that issue, and taking those views into consideration.

To learn about your rights and responsibilities, as well as how best to consult:

Step 3: Identify hazards and risks

A hazard is a term that means anything that has the potential to cause harm to a person. Think of hazards like 'situations' or 'things' in the workplace that can hurt someone, either physically or mentally. The risk is the potential of it actually happening.

For example, a cable on the floor is a physical hazard. The risk is tripping on that cable and being physically injured. The same applies to hazards that affect our mental health – these are known as psychosocial hazards.

Bullying is an example of a psychosocial hazard. The risk is that exposure to repeated and unreasonable behaviour could lead to an injury.

Examples of bullying

Often multiple hazards can be present at the same time and can combine to increase the risk of harm occurring. Identifying bullying as a hazard and understanding factors that contribute to it occurring is the best way to prevent it from happening.

Bullying can happen wherever people work together. Some things might make bullying more likely, such as:

  • poor communication between employees
  • leadership that doesn't provide sufficient or equal support to employees
  • employees that work remotely, alone or in isolation
  • insufficient training including inductions

Managing these factors well should decrease the risk of bullying.

Step 4: Assess and control risks

Assess the risk of bullying occurring

A risk assessment will help you understand the risks to your employees' health, and how to prioritise your efforts to manage them.

It is good practice to identify hazards, both individually and together, that are creating risks to health and safety. Once you have identified the hazards, you can assess the risk of them occurring.

Risk assessment tips

Control the risks of bullying

A control simply means 'ways to manage' an issue. Controls are things you put in place to eliminate or reduce risks. The list could be endless, but it's really just about taking action, so far as reasonably practicable, to manage the risk of bullying happening in your workplace.

Here are some ways that employers can take action (or 'implement a control') to create a safe workplace.

Step 5: Share, review and improve

A safe and mentally healthy workplace needs ongoing commitment and engagement.

If you have a bullying policy, review it every year or when new information about bullying becomes available. You want to check whether the controls you've implemented are still relevant and effective (i.e. training, reporting).

By sharing the outcomes of these reviews, as well as suggestions and recommendations for improvements, you can keep the conversation going. This will continue to build trust and cooperation between you and your employees. Consultation must be undertaken before making any changes and these changes must be communicated to your employees.

Set a calendar appointment now to review your policy in 12 months.

More information

Need help or advice about an issue?

WorkSafe Advisory Service

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.