Bullying & harassment

Everyone has a right not to be bullied or harassed at work.

What is bullying

A worker is bullied at work if:

  • a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening. Whether a behaviour is unreasonable can depend on whether a reasonable person might see the behaviour as unreasonable in the circumstances.

Examples of bullying include:

  • behaving aggressively
  • teasing or practical jokes
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
  • excluding someone from work-related events or
  • unreasonable work demands.

What isn't bullying

A manager can make decisions about poor performance, take disciplinary action, and direct and control the way work is carried out. Reasonable management action that’s carried out in a reasonable way is not bullying.

Management action that isn't carried out in a reasonable way may be considered bullying.

How is bullying different to discrimination?

Discrimination happens when there's 'adverse action', such as firing or demoting someone, because of a person's characteristics like their race, religion or sex.

Bullying happens when a colleague or manager repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a person or group of people and causes a risk to health and safety in the workplace. This behaviour doesn't have to be related to the person or group's characteristics and adverse action doesn't have to have happened.

Find out more about discrimination on the Protections from discrimination at work page.

Who is protected from bullying in the workplace?

The national anti-bullying laws cover all national system employees as well as:

  • outworkers
  • students gaining work experience
  • contractors or subcontractors
  • volunteers.

Visit the Fair Work Commission website external-icon.png to find out more about whether you're covered.

If you're not covered by these laws, you should contact the workplace health and safety body in your state or territory.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) sections 789FA – 789FI external-icon.png

What to do if you think bullying or harassment has happened

For employees:

For employers:

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