The Fair Work Commission (FWC) will struggle to deal with a sudden overflow of bullying claims once the federal government delegates control of bullying complaints to the workplace tribunal. The warning comes from the employment legal centre JobWatch which claims the tribunal could be required to handle more than 10,000 bullying complaints a year.
A Senate committee is considering the bullying proposals as part of proposed changes by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to the Fair Work Act. Under the changes the commission would be required to list any application for consideration within 14 days. It will be able to make orders to deal with the complaint as well as refer matters to the relevant state regulator. Failure to comply with an order of the commission would attract a maximum penalty of up to $33,000.
In a submission to the committee, JobWatch welcomed the 14-day time limit but questioned the commission’s capacity to “deal with what will undoubtedly be a massive influx of stop bullying applications”. In the 12 months to July 2011, WorkSafe Victoria received more than 6000 complaints about workplace bullying. “If this figure is extrapolated across all Australian states and territories, even by a conservative estimate, the FWC is going to receive hundreds, if not thousands, of stop bullying applications per year, possibly even more than 10,000,” it says.
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