Related topics

Bullying is harmful behaviour that is directed towards a person or group of people. It is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome. Bullying can cause either physical or psychological harm.

Bullying within the workplace creates a risk to the health and safety of your workers. While no specific mention is made of bullying in health and safety legislation, all health and safety legislation imposes a general duty on you to protect the health, safety, and welfare of your workers.

Workplace bullying isn’t just confined to the physical workspace. Bullying can also occur online, particularly through email or social media, and at any time of the day or night.

There are two types of bullying that can occur in the workplace - direct and indirect bullying.

Direct bullying is behaviour that is overt and often involves direct steps or conduct to belittle or demean a person or a group of people.

Indirect bullying is behaviour that often involves treatment that excludes or removes benefits from a person or group of people.

A wide range of injuries and illnesses can result from bullying, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide.


Workplace harassment is prohibited by anti-discrimination legislation in all States and Territories.

A common form of harassment is sexual harassment, which occurs when a person is subjected to any unwanted or uninvited sexual behaviour that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating. Sexual harassment can include the following types of behaviour:

  • unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature;
  • unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours;
  • unwelcome remarks or statements with sexual connotations;
  • any unwelcome gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature;
  • staring or leering at someone in a sexual manner;
  • unwanted sexual or physical contact, e.g. kissing, inappropriate touching or hugging; intrusive questions about someone’s sexual activity; and
  • repeated invitations of a sexual nature when similar invitations have previously been refused by that person.


Discrimination is treating a person less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or some other attribute or characteristic as specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation.

There are two types of discrimination – direct and indirect.

Direct discrimination is treating a person with a prescribed attribute differently than a person without that attribute.

Indirect discrimination is imposing a requirement, condition or practice on someone that a person with a certain attribute does not or cannot comply with.


Top stories for Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination


Tram driver denied procedural fairness, FWC rules

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

  When a person or body is appointed to determine allegations of employee misconduct, there is generally an obligation to afford the employee being investigated natural justice or procedural fairness. In a recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision, Australian Rail, […]

By Charles Power on August 12th, 2019

14 steps to avoid discriminating when recruiting

Discrimination in the workplace

When advertising for a job vacancy, most employers will want to find the best candidate and fit for the organisation. And often they will see the recruitment process as a way to filter out potentially unsuitable employees at the outset. […]

By Portner Press on July 17th, 2019

Your questions answered: What can we do if management won’t address bullying?

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

Q We have reported a bullying manager to HR. However, she will only change her behaviour for a period of time before reverting back to bullying. Nothing seems to happen when she is reported, and it’s not just one person […]

By Portner Press on July 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we enforce reasonable personal presentation standards?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q What are reasonable standards of presentation in the workplace? For example, rainbow hair colour (may be political in nature), ‘excessive’ facial piercings, visible facial tattoos. Our staff are serving customers and are the first impression of our business to […]

By Portner Press on July 3rd, 2019

Solicitor ordered to pay employee $170,000 for ‘sinister’ sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace

A solicitor has been ordered to pay $170,000 in damages to a female employee he subjected to “relentless” sexual harassment. Owen Hughes, the principal at Beesley and Hughes in northern NSW made numerous sexual advances towards his employee over several […]

By Portner Press on June 24th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we force an employee to have a medical review?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q Can we request an employee to undertake a periodical medical review if such a clause is not stipulated in their current employment contract? Also, what happens if an employee undertakes a medical review and they fail it for some […]

By Portner Press on May 10th, 2019

‘Grow up’ FWC tells company director

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

When a company director’s relationship with his co-director wife broke down, a female HR manager in the family business became the victim of his bullying. The employee at Hoad Water Cartage in Adelaide applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) […]

By Portner Press on April 26th, 2019

Man who sexually harassed a male colleague loses unfair dismissal claim

Sexual harassment in the workplace

What began as flirtatious texting banter between two male employees took a dark turn when one of the men started asking the other for money.

By Portner Press on April 17th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we require employees to only speak English?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q We have a number of employees who do not speak English as a first language. The other employees, who do speak English as a first language, get disgruntled when languages other than English are spoken in the lunchroom, and […]

By Portner Press on April 8th, 2019

Your questions answered: What can we do if an employee doesn’t fit into our uniforms?

Discrimination in the workplace

When an employee decides to resign you should take the following steps to ensure the process is handled professionally and legally. 1. Determine if the resignation is valid Just because an employee resigns, it does not necessarily mean the resignation […]

By Portner Press on April 5th, 2019