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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


Your questions answered: How do we asking about physical fitness during recruitment without being discriminatory?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q: Where is the balance between ensuring the physical fitness of the potential employee and discriminating against them?

By Portner Press on March 20th, 2019

Doctor wins $1.5m in political discrimination claim

Discrimination in the workplace

Former Queensland state government minister Dr Chris Davis has won more than $1.45 million in an anti-discrimination claim.

By Portner Press on March 18th, 2019

More action is needed to deal with workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace

  Australia is failing to deal with workplace sexual harassment. Despite health and safety regulators having laws and powers in place to address this systemic problem, there is still very little being done about it. That’s the view of more […]

By Portner Press on March 11th, 2019

Workplace sexual harassment is becoming more prevalent in Australia

Sexual harassment in the workplace

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) survey demonstrates that sexual harassment remains a significant concern for both employees and employers.

By Hannah Pelka-Caven on March 4th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we set personal presentation standards at work without discriminating?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q: Our staff are the first impression of our business to the general community. What are reasonable standards of presentation in the workplace?

By Portner Press on January 30th, 2019

Excluding candidates because of a criminal record may be unlawful

Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination on the basis of a candidate’s criminal record maybe unlawful unless it is based on the inherent requirements of the job.

By Charles Power on January 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we deal with a boss who is a bully?

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

  Q I am having trouble finding information about what to do if a boss is the bully in a workplace… I once worked somewhere where the sole director was and continues to be the main source of bullying. What course of […]

By Portner Press on January 11th, 2019

“Unwise” romantic advances weren’t harassment finds FWC

Sexual harassment in the workplace

A Melbourne engineer who claims she was had to resign because her supervisor wanted to “get into her pants” has lost her application for unfair dismissal remedy.

By Portner Press on November 16th, 2018

Strict policy and quick reaction protects employer against claim

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

There is a belief employers will usually be held liable for the conduct of its employees when they hurt other employees. But this isn’t always the case.

By Portner Press on October 31st, 2018

Your questions answered: Can an employee returning from parental leave request to become part-time?

Discrimination in the workplace

  Q A full-time employee who is taking parental leave has asked to return to work 3 days per fortnight. He has been employed for more than 15 years and has used most of his long service and annual leave. […]

By Portner Press on October 22nd, 2018