'Eye-rolling' a form of bullying

PROPOSED changes to Safe Work Australia's national code on bullying prohibits "eye-rolling responses" and classifies "not providing enough work" as a form of "indirect bullying".

Alterations to the code fall under occupational health and safety laws and would be admissible in court - if the national laws designed to combat bullying are passed through.

Under the code, employers or employees could be sued for rolling their eyes as it may "diminish a person's dignity".

Other radical changes include:

•Constantly changing deadlines or setting timelines that are difficult to achieve would be considered indirect bullying.

•Pranks and "exclusive clubs or cliques" would be banned and discouraged, so workers are not "ostracised".

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

The code states that "in some situations, behaviours may unintentionally cause distress and be perceived as bullying".

"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," the draft says.

"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".

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said the code "reads like something out of the socialist playbook".

He said that at Senate Estimates, departmental officials confirmed that where an employer unintentionally bullied an employee, and the employee didn't consider it to be bullying, if another "sensitive" employee had observed this and actually interpreted the behaviour as bullying they could take action.

"Albeit it was unintentional and it wasn't taken as bullying, the third party would be entitled to compensation, counselling and all the rest," Senator Abetz said.

WorkCover in New South Wales and Western Australia made Safe Work Australia remove "bully" and "victim" from the draft code in fear the terms would label people.


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