Workplace bullying is causing problems for many Australian businesses.

New research from Safe Work Australia has revealed some troubling findings around workplace bullying, in particular the high number of female victims in comparison with their male counterparts. 

The Bullying & Harassment in Australian Workplaces: Results from the Australian Workplace Barometer project 2014/2015 found that unfair treatment due to gender was reported by 10.9 per cent of respondents. Additionally, unwanted sexual advances and physical assault or threats by a client or patient were more prevalent among female survey participants.

New research shows women are more likely to be bullied in the workplace.New research shows women are more likely to be bullied in the workplace.

Workplace bullying on the rise

According to the report, the level of workplace bullying in Australia has seen a sharp rise since the previous study in 2009-11, rising from a 7 per cent prevalence rate to almost 10 per cent. Among those surveyed workers who were victims of bullying, almost a third stated that it happened at least once a week.

While concerning, Safe Work Australia Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr Fleur de Crespigny stated that the insight gleaned from the report – the first national collection of information on bullying and harassment – is valuable for organisations looking to bolster their current workplace health and safety practices.

"This information is important to the development of national policy and guidance to promote improved psychological health in Australian workplaces," Ms. de Crespigny said. 

The level of workplace bullying in Australia has seen a sharp rise since 2009-11.

"The findings provide evidence that it is advantageous for employers to commit to improving mental health in the workplace."

Addressing bullying in the workplace

Recommendations from Safe Work Australia regarding how organisations can address bullying centred around one key area: Ensuring awareness among managers and supervisors about the impacts of bullying and harassment and establishing worker psychological health as a core aspect of WHS strategy.

"Workplaces should establish policies or guidelines for respectful behaviour, particularly toward women and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and how to address bullying and harassment should it occur," the report said.

The damaging effects of workplace bullying – which Safe Work Australia notes are most visible in terms of emotional exhaustion, psychological distress and depression – are unhealthy not only for the workers involved, but the business as a whole.

Lost productivity, increased absenteeism and poor staff morale, whatever the cause behind them, can translate to wasted expenditure and lost revenues. Ensuring your WHS processes are effectively protecting the well-being of your employees and minimising discrimination are essential elements of running a business. 

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