Bullying in the workplace is becoming one of Australia’s major social issues and could be adversely affecting the health of thousands of employees.
Trilby Misso Managing Lawyer Robyn Davies said that we are receiving at least 12 enquiries per month from people who are suffering extreme stress or depression caused by bullying in the workplace.
“This is double the number of enquiries we were getting a year ago and bullying is now among the most common complaints we receive from workers seeking compensation,” Ms Davies said.
“But we believe that these numbers represent only the tip of the iceberg. “People who phone us are usually at their wits end, having tried to improve the situation over a period of months or even years. “Complaints to their employers often fall on deaf ears. They keep trying to cope but the longer they do the worse their symptoms get until they reach the stage where they are suffering severe anxiety that requires medical intervention.”
Ms Davies said the case earlier this year of Brodie Panlock, a teenage waitress who committed suicide in Melbourne after sustained bullying by colleagues, was a stark reminder to Australian employers to take bullying more seriously. “The owner of the cafe and the three co-workers who were found liable for the daily harassment and humiliation that contributed to Brodie’s suicide were fined a total of $335,000,” she said.
Ms Davies said companies which failed to adequately protect their employees were liable for the mental anguish and depression caused by their failure to act. “It is a major occupational health and safety issue but some employers just don’t get it,” she said. “All employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide a safe workplace and this should include ensuring their safety from bullying in all its forms.”