Brokers have a vital role to play in helping small businesses implement thorough risk management strategies to combat bullying under amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009.
Changes that came into effect on 1 January could cause a spike in compensation claims, with new avenues available for employees to lodge a complaint to the Fair Work Commission.
Suncorp’s Chief of Workers Compensation Portfolio, Jason Allison, says small businesses that fail to act could be fined up to $51,000, face high premiums and suffer a loss of productivity.
“Businesses should not underestimate how much a bullying action could cost – the workers compensation implications are not the only ones to consider,” he says.
“The amendments include significant penalties for failing to act on a Fair Work Commission order; the maximum penalty for an individual is $10,200, while corporations face up to $51,000.
“Businesses can also face prosecution under work health and safety laws and could also lose a significant amount of productivity if the bullied employee is off work and you have to discipline the perpetrators.”
Brokers must work with compensation professionals to stamp out bullying before it enters the workplace to mitigate the cost of an injured worker, according to Allison.
“Workers compensation professionals can assist in implementing systems to identify these behaviours – since they are effectively health and safety risks – before they become a problem,” he says.
“It is also extremely beneficial to choose a workers compensation insurer that has an excellent record for prompt return-to-work times, because the longer an injured worker is off work, the less likely it is that they will fully recover.”
Allison says small businesses must start developing healthy cultures within the workspace to improve productivity.
“Business must also foster and promote a culture of zero-tolerance towards workplace bullying, because workplace culture is one of the biggest drivers of change,” he says.
“Furthermore, businesses with a positive, inclusive culture tend to be more productive.”
To read more, see our feature on the new bullying regulations.