New national laws to stamp out workplace bullying will be considered by a high-level inquiry into bullying and harassment ordered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The decision was taken following a government report which revealed bullying and harassment may be costing between $6 billion and $36 billion a year in lost economic productivity.
A national policy to deal with the problem, which experts claim has become endemic, would be developed after the committee reported.
The inquiry would look into how widespread the problem is across Australian workplaces, and whether new regulations or legislation are needed to address it.
Ms Gillard has referred the issue of bullying to the House of Representatives standing committee on education and employment and said she would take a personal interest in its findings: “Bullying at work is a real threat for far too many workers. It needs to end.
“There’s a huge human cost, but it hits the economy too. Up to $36 billion is lost at work ever year because of bullying.
“I am taking a personal interest in this inquiry into bullying and will be looking at the evidence and the possible answers.
“I strongly support the stand The Daily Telegraph is taking on this important issue.”
The federal government’s decision to take action follows a new offensive against bullying by the clubs industry, which will now force its employer members to reject any job applications from people who were bullies at high school.
The trial will involve employers rejecting any applicants who had been proven to have engaged in bullying, cyber stalking, harassment or threatening behaviour at school.
While the BullyCheck scheme has the backing of the state government, Sydney’s Catholic school leaders yesterday hit out against the program.
Dr Dan White, executive director of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, said it was not the role of schools to inform potential employers of a young person’s misdemeanors.
He said young people were prone to making mistakes and not thinking about the long-term consequences.
“I am strongly of the view that anyone involved in bullying, whether at school, at home or in the workplace, should be held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace is now the second highest cause of workers’ compensation psychological claims, with 24 per cent of all claims made because of bullying – behind 35 per cent for work pressure. In 2008, NSW recorded the second highest level of workplace bullying after Tasmania.
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