Australia Ranked As The Worst Country for Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace
Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected at work, but sadly, work can be a major source of stress and trauma if there’s a culture of workplace bullying and harassment. In a shocking report published by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Australia has been named as one of the world’s most dangerous places to work, with the highest recorded rates of psychological, physical and sexual violence.1
According to the recent World Risk Poll – a survey of 125,911 people in 121 countries – Australia and New Zealand have the highest levels of violence and bullying, with nearly one in two (47.9%) people experiencing some form of workplace harassment in their lifetime.1 Even more disturbing is that this statistic stands well above the global average of 21%.2 Not great news for Aussie or Kiwi workers!
In this article, we’ll answer a variety of frequently-asked questions about bullying and harassment in the workplace, and explain the process of making a workers compensation claim in Australia.
Workplace harassment statistics in Australia
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the International Labour Organization (ILO) joined forces with Gallup (an analytics and advisory company) in 2021 to create the first global survey of workplace violence and harassment, as part of the broader World Risk Poll. The aim of the survey was to identify global, national and demographic workplace harassment trends, including male and female harassment in the workplace statistics.
According to the 2021 World Risk Poll, workers from Australia and New Zealand have the highest reported rates of violence and harassment, as this table shows:
|Australia and New Zealand (71.9%)||Central/Western Africa (67.2%)||East Asia (61.7%)|
|Australia and New Zealand (79.3%)||Northern America (73.8%)||Eastern Europe (68.6%)|
|Northern America (65.4%)||Australia and New Zealand (65.4%)||Central Asia (64.9%)|
Dr Sarah Cumbers, Director of Evidence and Insight at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, remarked that these results “do not paint a positive picture” for Australia and New Zealand. She stated another “unfortunate” aspect of these results is that the majority of Australian and New Zealand workers have experienced violence and harassment “three or more times.”2
The study also showed that the victims of workplace harassment in Australia and New Zealand are more likely to be female, with 52% of women experiencing some form of violence or harassment within their lifetime, compared with 44% of men.2
Dr Cumbers expressed a need for “immediate action in Australia and New Zealand, with interventions set up to ensure workers are better protected.”2
In terms of which countries have the highest incidents of workplace violence, compared with those with the lowest, the results are as follows:
|Highest rates of violence/harassment||Lowest rates of violence/harassment|
|1. Australia||1. Kyrgyzstan|
|2. Finland||2. Lebanon|
|3. Iceland||3. Malaysia|
|4. New Zealand||4. Uzbekistan|
|5. Denmark||5. Armenia|
|6. United States||6. Indonesia|
|7. Norway||7. Georgia|
|8. Canada||8. Kazakhstan|
|9. Greece||9. Pakistan|
|10. Sweden||10. Tajikistan|
As Dr Cumbers points out, these workplace harassment statistics show that “workers in Australia and New Zealand are also significantly more likely to tell someone else about their experience than the global average.”2
So, what is bullying and harassment in the workplace?
There can be confusion about what bullying in the workplace is. At what point does a bit of cheeky banter morph into something more sinister? A simple definition of bullying in the workplace is any kind of repeated behaviour that creates a risk to a person’s health and safety. Examples of this kind of behaviour can include verbal insults, social exclusion, rumour spreading, and physical intimidation.
What is the difference between bullying and harassment in the workplace?
Harassment is a type of offensive behaviour that usually tends to target a person based on a particular characteristic, such as, for instance, their race, sexual orientation, age, gender, religious beliefs, physical appearance or disability. Both bullying and harassment can cause significant psychological distress, which can lead to ongoing mental health problems.
Under Australian law, both bullying and harassment are prohibited in the workplace. Despite this, the World Risk Poll shows that bullying and harassment in Australian workplaces is happening “at an alarmingly high rate.” As Dr Cumber states, “nobody should go to work and face violence and harassment – whether physical, psychological or sexual.” Clearly, further measures need to be taken to protect Australian workers.2
If you’ve suffered psychological trauma as the direct consequence of workplace harassment, visit our bullying and harassment page. Here, you’ll find information about seeking workers compensation for bullying in the workplace in Australia.
What are some examples of harassment and bullying in the workplace?
Common examples of bullying in the workplace include:
- Persistent teasing
- Practical jokes
- Exclusion from work activities and social events
- Making unreasonable work demands
- Gossiping and rumour-spreading
- Withholding the information or tools a person needs to do their job
- Aggressive or intimidating conduct
Data from the World Risk Poll also revealed that there are alarmingly high incidents of sexual harassment in Australia and New Zealand, with 65.4% of those surveyed reporting they’d been sexually harassed multiple times. While women are often victims of sexual harassment, male harassment in the workplace is also common.1
These are some examples of sexual harassment:
- Making suggestive jokes or comments
- Staring or leering
- Taunts or insults of a sexual nature
- Intrusive questions about your private life
- Unwelcome touching or unnecessary familiarity
- Displaying posters or screensavers of a sexual nature
- Making inappropriate advances on social networking sites
- Accessing sexually explicit websites while at work
- Sending sexually explicit text messages or emails
- Repeated unwanted requests to go out on a date
In certain instances, sexual harassment can also be considered an offence under criminal law. Examples of these kinds of behaviours include stalking, sexual assault and indecent exposure.
What type of harassment is most common in the workplace?
What the World Risk Poll revealed is that globally, among those who have worked at some point in their lifetime, psychological violence and harassment was the most frequently reported form (16.5%) compared to physical (7.4%) and sexual (5.5%).1
Of those who experienced psychological harassment, the most common forms were “insults, threats, bullying or intimidation at work.” At a global level, men were more likely to say they’d experienced psychological harassment compared with women, at 17.4% and 15.6% respectively.1
Concerningly, 41.9% of Australian respondents reported that they’d experienced psychological harassment, with women more likely to experience it than men.1
Subjecting a person to psychological abuse is one of the most insidious types of bullying in the workplace, as it isn’t always easy to prove. Its effects, however, can be debilitating, with some victims left with permanent psychological scarring.
Can you get compensation for workplace bullying?
In Australia, it is possible to make a workers compensation claim for mental health problems caused by workplace bullying and harassment. From a legal standpoint, employers have a duty of care to provide a workplace that’s safe and healthy, which includes protecting their employees from bullying and harassment. If you’ve been the victim of psychological abuse in the workplace, you should think about making a workplace bullying claim.
In order to claim workers comp for bullying, you need to be able to demonstrate that the bullying or harassment was a significant contributing factor to the development of your mental health condition. This may require medical evidence and other supporting documentation.
Workers compensation laws vary between Australian states and territories, and the process for making a claim can be complicated. For these reasons, you should seek the advice of a legal expert who specialises in workers compensation law. For more information, visit our bullying and harassment page.
If you lodge a workers compensation claim, and it’s successful, you will be entitled to compensation for things such as medical expenses and lost income. The amount of compensation you receive will depend on the specific details of your case.
When should I contact a lawyer?
If you are experiencing bullying or harassment in the workplace, you may be eligible for a workers compensation claim. It is advisable to consider contacting a lawyer under the following circumstances:
- Persistent and ongoing harassment: If you are experiencing a pattern of repeated bullying or harassment incidents that have not been adequately addressed or resolved despite your attempts to address the issue internally, it may be time to consult with a personal injury law firm.
- Adverse impact on your well-being or job performance: If the bullying or harassment is causing significant emotional distress, anxiety, depression, or affecting your ability to perform your job effectively, seeking legal advice can help you understand your rights and potential legal recourse.
- Retaliation or adverse employment actions: If you have reported the bullying or harassment and are facing retaliation from your employer, such as unjust disciplinary actions, demotion, or termination, it is crucial to seek legal assistance to protect your rights.
- Lack of resolution through internal channels: If your employer has failed to adequately address your complaints or implement appropriate measures to prevent further harassment, consulting with a law firm can help you explore external legal remedies.
- Documentation and evidence: If you have collected evidence of bullying or harassment, such as emails, text messages, witness statements, or other relevant documentation, a law firm can advise you on how to effectively utilise this evidence to support your case.
Every individual’s experience with workplace bullying or harassment is unique, and its impact can vary greatly. If you believe you are experiencing such issues, it is advisable to contact LHD Lawyers, a specialist personal injury law firm, to discuss your specific situation and explore your options for a workers’ compensation claim.
Make a Workers Compensation claim today
If you want to make a workers compensation claim for bullying in the workplace in NSW, LHD Lawyers can help you receive the benefits you’re entitled to. We are so sure of our abilities to win your case that we stand firmly by our No Win No Fee Policy: if we don’t win, you don’t pay. Call 1800 455 725 for a no-obligation consultation about your case.
1 Source: Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll 2021, Safe at Work? Global experiences of violence and harassment.