THE absence of a single, nationally accepted definition of what constitutes workplace bullying makes policing and prosecuting it extremely difficult, a federal inquiry will be told when its Melbourne hearings start tomorrow.
The federal government launched the inquiry into bullying last month and has received hundreds of submissions from individuals who say they have been victims in workplaces around the nation.
Many groups concerned about the impact of a lack of clear laws in the area have also made submissions.
Among those scheduled to appear at hearings tomorrow in Melbourne is the Law Institute of Victoria.
The deputy chairwoman of the institute’s workplace relations section, Moira Rayner, will appear before the House of Representatives committee, and argue that Victorian laws passed last year – known as ”Brodie’s law” – were ineffective because they were not being used by victims of workplace bullying.
”We have to make employers acutely aware that they will pay heavily if they do not run their workplaces so that bullying is outed and dealt with at the earliest possible stage, without any victim having to make a complaint,” Ms Rayner said on a Law Institute website ahead of the hearing.
She argued that Brodie’s law did not work because it relied on ”humiliated and downtrodden victims to make a complaint, which could result in even further victimisation”.
The laws – named for teenage waitress Brodie Panlock, who committed suicide in 2006 after relentless bullying at a Hawthorn cafe – introduced 10-year prison terms for bullying. But by last month, a year after the laws were introduced, not one charge had been issued.
The Law Institute argues there needs to be a nationally recognised legislative definition of bullying, which includes clear examples of what constitutes such conduct.
Also appearing at the inquiry in Melbourne will be Ms Panlock’s parents, Damian and Rae.
The inquiry will hold its first hearing today in Sydney, and in Hobart on Thursday. As well as hearing from groups, the inquiry has set aside time to hear from individuals about their experiences of bullying in the workplace.
South Australian Labor MP Amanda Rishworth, who chairs the parliamentary committee that set up the inquiry, said it would ultimately feed into a national code to prevent workplace bullying.
She said some states had specific legislation to deal with bullying, while others had nothing.
”There is a problem with bullying – you can’t say there’s not,” Ms Rishworth said. ”The question is what is the appropriate response. It may be that we have not defined bullying clearly enough, or it may be that the legislation that exists isn’t being enforced.”
And she said bullying no longer stopped at the workplace, as technology intruded into all areas of people’s lives. ”It can continue on with Twitter and Facebook and mobile phones, so it is a very interesting question [as] the difference between home and work are beginning to blur.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.