Early intervention and the appropriate policies and training can save a business thousands of dollars in avoiding bullying and harassment cases, according to Business SA senior workplace relations consultant, Elizabeth Sexton.
Sexton said the Productivity Commission has estimated that bullying costs the Australian economy up to $36 billion per annum with the average cost of individual cases estimated at between $17,000 and $24,000.
Sexton said such costs and the disruption of the workplace have a significant impact on businesses.
“Potential tangible costs include potential legal and workers compensation claims , the application of penalties or fines, and management time in handling cases of bullying ,” Sexton told Business Insight.
“While each of these can be insured against, the intangible costs cannot. The ‘hidden’ costs of bullying or harassment are like a bushfire through your business.
“For example, a single instance of bullying or harassment can result in lost productivity from not only the employee on the receiving end but also the alleged perpetrator, any witnesses, those involved in managing the complaint and those team members close to any of these people.
“Morale is affected and you can almost see the mood drop in many cases of alleged bullying or harassment. Absenteeism and turnover increase, and there is a great deal of time spent managing complaints which could better be spent running the business.”
An experienced mediator – Sexton is in the final stages of a Graduate Diploma in Mediation and Conflict Management at the University of South Australia – with eight years of practical experience investigating claims of bullying, Sexton provides advice and mediation services to Business SA’s membership.
“No two bullying or harassment situations are the same but the one thing they have in common is that early intervention gives a senior manager the best chance of resolving an issue in the workplace and avoiding the very costly legal processes that unresolved conflict can lead to,” Sexton said.
“But if a company does end up in court or before one of the regulatory bodies like Safework Australia or the Fair Work Commission, sound policies dealing with bullying and harassment, backed by effective and timely staff training, will hold a company in good stead,” she said.
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