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EducationHow to Speak Up Against Workplace Abuse in Australia

How to Speak Up Against Workplace Abuse in Australia

Workplace abuse happens in many workplaces because of different motivations. It could be because of an existing culture, poor job design and work relationships, and lack of accountability, among other underlying reasons. Regardless of the motives, workplace abuse should never be tolerated.

The first thing to prevent workplace abuse from happening is to speak up. Many forms of workplace abuse remain unsaid because the people involved fear losing their jobs or the witnesses just don’t want to interfere. The good thing is that there are appropriate approaches you can undertake to speak up against workplace abuse.

Let’s guide you through the process through this blog.

What is workplace abuse?

Workplace abuse happens when individuals or groups repetitively mistreat another worker or group of workers in a workplace, posing a risk to the health and safety of the sufferers.

Workplace abuse can come in many forms: written/verbal, physical, or visual. It may also happen in various work environments like adf abuse, corporate abuse, or remote work abuse, among many other work arrangements and nature.

Speaking Up Against Workplace Abuse

Before taking legal action, you can take a few steps to resolve the issue with the company. Here’s the step-by-step process:

● Learn about your company’s policy

Every company has its policy on behavior in the workplace, including information on abuse. Learn about the process of how you can manage workplace abuse and hold someone responsible for their actions.

● Talk to the abuser

If you feel it’s safe to talk to the offender, you can start an informal conversation to let them know what you feel. In some cases, offenders aren’t aware of how their actions affect their co-workers, so talking to them may help de-escalate the situation. However, DON’T do this if you feel like your safety is in danger or that they can directly harm you.

● Inform the management and HR

Many victims feel unsafe talking to the offender, so informing the relevant individuals about the situation is the safest step. Refer to the following people who can help you resolve the issue:

  1. Supervisor/manager
  2. Human resources department
  3. Union
  4. Health and safety representative
  5. Lawyer
  6. Fair Work Commission
  7. Fair Work Ombudsman
  8. Australian Human Rights Commission

● Gather evidence

To prove that the abuse happened, you have to provide verifiable evidence. These may include records of events like time, date, place, and people who have witnessed it, among many other details that could help you prove your claim. You may also secure copies of chats or emails containing abusive messages from the offender.

● Talk to someone you trust

Dealing with workplace abuse can be mentally exhausting. There may come a point when you will feel hopeless about your situation. That is why having someone to talk to about anything related to your issue is essential. This way, you can minimize its impact on your life by having someone who genuinely listens to you.

● File a complaint

Unfortunately, in some cases, the relevant individuals responsible for resolving the issue don’t take complaints seriously. If this happens, you may lodge a formal complaint through the usual grievance process, which you may find in your employee handbook.

When to take legal action?

It is recommended to try to resolve the issue with your company first. However, when you feel like there is no progress regarding your complaint, taking legal action should be the most effective way to pull yourself from such a problematic situation.

It is important to note that the employment tribunal would ask you if you have tried to settle the issue with your company. If you can prove that you have talked to the relevant individuals and received no response or action, then you could have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.

The Role of HR in Resolving Workplace Abuse

To objectively arrive at the best solutions to resolve the conflict, managers and supervisors may need direct intervention from HR people. They have the skills and experience needed to deal with the case sensitively.

You may think your HR officers would investigate promptly. However, the first thing they would do is to confidentially talk to the involved parties, listen to their concerns, and come up with possible solutions to resolve the conflict.

The HR department has the most significant role in dealing with workplace abuse. They can help the victim strategize steps toward confronting the abuser, advise the offender against retaliation, and pursue a formal investigation if deemed necessary.

Employers could also contract counseling services if they don’t have in-house experts. If there’s doubt about the complaint or no reason for disciplinary actions, counseling services may serve as a confidential avenue, ideal for informal discussions, not necessitating formal actions.

Final Thoughts

All workplaces, no matter the scale, should have established policies on workplace abuse. These guide employees about grievance and disciplinary matters, inculcating accountability. These policies should also clearly cover the options for abuse victims so they can safely discuss their work-related issues and seek guidance on resolution. This is how a company can guarantee safe reporting of unethical or inappropriate conduct like workplace abuse.

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