With workplace bullying becoming more prevalent or at the very least, more recognised, there is an undoubted duty of care owed to the staff experiencing the bullying. But what happens when the bullying is perceived and not necessarily real? Does the person accused of perpetrating the bullying need support whilst undergoing investigation? According to recent court cases, the answer is yes. Employers have as much of a duty to the accused as the accuser when it comes to work place bullying complaints.
In a recent case in Queensland (Hayes v State of Queensland  QCA 191), a court upheld that an employer who investigated a bullying claim against a staff member, owed a duty of care to both of the employees involved. The employee accused of bullying proceeded to then make a claim against the employer, citing psychiatric injuries.
In this particular case, while the Court of Appeal upheld that there was a duty of care required, the employee accused of workplace bullying, failed to establish that any breach of this duty of care had caused the injuries suffered.
Key takeaway points for employers:
- As the employer, it is advisable to ensure that proactive measures be taken to mitigate stress suffered by all staff surrounding a workplace bullying investigation
- Duty of care be provided to all involved, including the accused
- Ensure staff are made aware of all services and support systems that are available to them
Proactive measures to mitigate further issues are always less expensive that reactive ones. To ensure you handle your investigation legally and proactively, contact Tyler & Co today for advice on how best to handle staff issues and claims, 02 9966 1799.