Workplace bullies could face prison in Queensland

WORKPLACE bullies could be charged with stalking and face jail for the first time in Queensland.

In a major shake-up to workplace laws, bosses and staff who victimise workers could be left with a criminal record instead of fines in industrial courts.

Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick will today announce a new workplace bullying reference group to advise whether laws in Queensland should be strengthened.

“This group will ensure that Queensland’s framework for dealing with workplace bullying remains valid and effective in modern-day workplaces,” Mr Dick said.

The Queensland Council of Unions, a peak retail group, legal and academic experts will be asked to evaluate tough new Victorian legislation and approaches from other jurisdictions.

“Brodie’s Law” added serious workplace and cyber bullying to Crimes Act provisions in Victoria, and bullying that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental harm is now treated as stalking.

The laws introduced earlier this year were sparked after the tragic case of Brodie Panlock, 19, who committed suicide after being bullied at work.

A court heard that for a year, staff at a Melbourne cafe spat on Brodie, poured beer over her and held her down to drench her with cooking oil.

Mr Dick said Queensland had existing laws to address workplace bullying, but wanted to know if an enforceable code of practice implemented in 2004 was still effective. Victims can complain under several instruments and serious cases, such as assault, are already covered under the Criminal Code.

Mr Dick, who said he watched Brodie’s Law closely, was not convinced Queensland needed to criminalise bullying but would keep an open mind.

“But we want to check what gaps, if there are gaps, are in Workplace Health and Safety laws,” he told The Sunday Mail.

He said there were also questions about staff who were bullied after work via social networking sites.

Reference group member, Queensland Council of Unions assistant general secretary Amanda Richards, said it could be hard for some victims to get justice under the current system.

A report will be handed to Mr Dick by December 31.


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