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Bullying & harassment

Everyone has a right not to be bullied or harassed at work. There are national anti-bullying laws and state or territory health and safety bodies that can help people with bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

If you're not sure if you're covered by the state or territory laws or the national laws, see Who is protected from bullying in the workplace.

For more information on the national anti-bullying laws, who can take action, and applying for an order to stop workplace bullying, contact the Fair Work Commission external-icon.png.  For help with enforcing an order that hasn't been followed, call us or send us an enquiry online.

For information on the state or territory laws about workplace health and safety, contact the workplace health and safety body in your state or territory.

Find general information here about:

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 someone in the workplace repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards another 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 constitutionally covered businesses 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 s.789FA – 789FIexternal-icon.png

What to do if you think bullying or harassment has happened

For employees:

  • If you think bullying or harassment is happening at your work, talk to:
    • a supervisor or manager
    • a workplace health and safety representative
    • the human resources department
    • a union (visit the Unions and employer associations page to find registered unions in your industry).
  • If you're still employed, take action at the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) to stop the bullying:
  • If you have an order from the Commission to stop bullying in the workplace and it hasn't been followed, you can contact us to help enforce it by:
  • You can also take action by contacting:
    • your state or territory workplace health and safety body, which can provide advice and assistance about workplace bullying as well as consider complaints of workplace bullying or provide appropriate referrals to other bodies.
    • the Australian Human Rights Commission external-icon.png, which accepts complaints of workplace bullying, harassment or discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or disability under federal laws. The Australian Human Rights Commission uses conciliation between parties to reach a resolution.

For employers:

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