‘A national survey of over 5,100 employees found close to one third (28%) of Australian workers say they have been bullied in the workforce,’

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A national survey of over 5,100 employees found close to one third (28%) of Australian workers say they have been bullied in the workforce, while 42 per cent of employees report having witnessed their colleagues being bullied or discriminated against at work.

The 2011 Workplace Pulse Quarterly survey, conducted by employment screening solution provider, WorkPro, revealed bullying and discrimination remain prominent features of the Australian workplace. One quarter of employees (23%) say that they have been a victim of bullying or discrimination in the workplace in the last two years, while 12 per cent report that it has happened multiple times.

The findings come as the Victorian state government sent a clear signal to workplace bullies last week with bullying now considered a criminal offence in Victoria. Changes to the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 mean Victorian workplace bullies could now face up to 10 years jail.

Tania Evans, Manager of WorkPro, said that employers need to realise that bullying and unfair treatment in the workplace are more common than they think, and they must put strategies in place to help tackle the problem.

“These are issues that over 40 per cent of employees say they have witnessed which seriously affects workplace culture and could put employers at risk of liability from OHS claims,” Ms Evans said.

“Last week’s amendment to the Crimes Act in Victoria makes it clear that threats and abusive words or acts which amount to bullying will incur serious consequences for anyone who engages in this type of behaviour,” Ms Evans said.

However, when compared to WorkPro’s previous survey, the 2011 results are very similar to those seen in 2008, indicating that many employers are still not addressing these issues.

“Employers need to be proactive about making sure employees get the information they need to understand their rights and responsibilities at work. They also need to ensure employees feel they can report inappropriate behaviour,” Ms Evans said.

Ms Evans emphasised that education needs to involve a clear reporting line for bullying and discrimination. She says that individuals working in temp placements are most confused about these reporting lines, with 47 per cent unsure of whether they report to the recruitment agency or the host employer.

Refer Workplace Pulse Quarterly Survey: Bullying and Equal Employment Opportunity @ http://www.workpro.com.au/