Having specific policies and procedures in place to combat bullying is an important workplace health and safety measure. Specific policies allow everyone to be aware of the expectations of the organisation and a detailed procedure will provide a roadmap for employees to raise bullying complaints and will hopefully be a good guide for the organisation in responding to complaints.
WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES?
This section may only be small, but it should introduce the policy and the organisation’s stance on bullying. You may also wish to include negative impacts bullying can have on individuals to support the organisation’s stance and reiterate organisational values.
It is important to state the legislations which may be referred to, or the legislation you are obliged to follow. This may include the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011, Public Service Act 1999, Fair Work Act 2009 etc. This allows employees to recognise the legal perspectives of workplace bullying.
It is important to include definitions to ensure everyone within the organisation understands the policy and procedure and there is no confusion or misinterpretation. Some recommended terms to define are; Workplace Bullying, Unreasonable Behaviour, Workplace Harassment, Workplace Discrimination etc.
Clear Descriptions of Unsatisfactory Behaviour (use examples that employees can relate to)
Clear descriptions of relevant behaviours should be included such as:
- ‘What is Bullying?
- ‘What is Harassment?’
- ‘How Can Workplace Bullying or Harassment Occur?’
- ‘What is Not Considered Workplace Bullying and Harassment?
- ‘How Can People be Affected by Workplace Bullying or Harassment?’
By providing clear and detailed descriptions of these types of behaviours, including examples that employees can relate to, the organisation is leaving no room for confusion or misinterpretation. If definitions and explanations are vague, members of the organisation may interpret the policy differently, causing confusion or bullying complaints to be made incorrectly.
Roles and Responsibilities
State and explain the roles and responsibilities of both employees, managers and human resources in order to prevent and manage workplace bullying and harassment.
Employee responsibilities may include:
- Abiding by the codes of conduct within the organisation;
- Recognising and appreciating differences within the workplace;
- Communicate openly;
- Take bullying and harassment seriously and report misconduct promptly.
Manger’s responsibilities may include:
- Promoting open communication and all aspects of the organisation’s code of conduct;
- Be approachable and supportive of others;
- Be fair, promote teamwork and reward exceptional behaviour;
- Monitor potential or reported bullying or harassment complaints.
Human resources responsibilities may include:
- Take all complaints seriously;
- Act promptly and efficiently to ensure all employees feel safe and supported;
- Protect the confidentiality of those involved to the extent possible;
- Facilitate mediation, councilors or external investigations where appropriate.
Some organisations may find it beneficial to add ‘checklists’ for both employees, mangers and HR representatives as this is an easy way to ensure everyone within the organisation knows what is expected of them and how they are involved in the management of bullying and harassment.
Guidelines For Making A Bullying or Harassment Complaint
It is important to provide members of the organisation with information or ‘guidelines’ on how to document and report bullying or harassment. This section should explain if the organisation accepts formal and/or informal complaints and how to make a complaint. Definitions should also be provided for terms such ‘complainant’, ‘respondent’ etc.
Some information you should encourage your employees to have when making a complaint are:
- Name and location of the person being bullied or harassed;
- Incident details including what happened, when it happened and where it happened;
- An explanation of why the behaviour was considered bullying, harassment, unfair, unlawful, inappropriate etc.;
- A list of any witnesses to the allegation as well as their contact details;
- Details of whether medical treatment was required or sought (physical or mental);
- What actions have been taken to prevent this behaviour (E.g. previous warnings);
- What outcome is expected by raising a complaint.
Some organisations may wish to attach ‘Incident Report Forms’ to the Policies and Procedures to ensure the complainant understands what they are expected to provide. By having specific forms and layouts for reporting, it also helps to create a systematic process for dealing with complaints.
Provide detail of the reporting process within your organisation. State in which circumstances it is mandatory to report an incident to management, for example:
- If the allegation is serious or has the potential to become a serious matter;
- When the allegation is causing harm to staff member’s health or wellbeing;
- If the allegation involves illegal activities.
State how much information is ideally wanted in a report and how employees are able to report matters.
Informal reporting may include:
- A conversation with a manger or human resources representative.
Formal reporting may include:
- A detailed email explaining the allegations and providing all necessary information;
- A written letter explaining the allegations and all information necessary;
- An organisation approved reporting form.
State and explain the processes the organisation will take to ensure the complainant’s details remain confidential to avoid victimisation or discrimination. If employees are afraid of adverse effects being the result of making a complaint, they may not make one. It may also be ideal to include the disciplinary actions that will be taken if employees are found to be victimising or discriminating against a complainant.
It is important to state that investigations will be taken seriously and dealt with in a timely manner. Be sure to explain all investigation processes which may be carried out within an organisation such as:
- Informal Investigations – This may include early interventions that result in the complainant feeling satisfied with the outcome.
- Formal Investigations – This may be internal or external and include written statements, interviews and result in a conclusion surrounding the allegations and disciplinary actions.
- Investigations without consent from a complainant – This may occur when a report is made and deemed to be too serious for an investigation not to occur.
A description or explanation of outcomes of investigations should be included. Also to be included is information of what will happen if members of the organisation are not satisfied with the outcome of an investigation.
Record Keeping and Procedural Fairness
It is important to include how records surrounding complaints are kept and how procedural fairness is maintained in the entirety of the process.
Further Information and Support
Provide your employees with further resources to find information or support such as your organisation’s code of conduct, the Fair Work Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission etc.