Workplace bullying to be directed to Fair Work under Labor plan

Australians who are subjected to bullying in their workplaces will be able to complain directly to the national Fair Work Commission under a Gillard government plan.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the plan would allow the Fair Work Commission, an independent umpire in workplace relations, to try to solve the disputes or refer the matters back to state bodies.

The move is the latest plank in the changes to workplace relations the Gillard government is championing this week.

It follows a proposal to allow more workers the right to seek flexible hours, although bosses will not be forced to agree to such requests.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told her Labor colleagues at a caucus meeting on Tuesday there had been some shocking examples of workplace bullying.

According to current advice provided by the Fair Work Commission, an employee who is suffering bullying or harassment by colleagues needs to seek assistance from the relevant state or territory occupational health and safety authority.

Mr Shorten said state regulators did the best they could with the resources they had, but every state did something different.

The new scheme would allow people to directly seek the help of the national Fair Work Commission.

''Workplace relations is, increasingly, a matter upon which there is national law, and we should have a national solution to complement what the safety regulators are already doing,'' Mr Shorten told ABC News24.

He said the Fair Work Commission would ''try and conciliate the disputes so that people can resume normal relationships, that the behaviours complained of can be prevented and remedied''.

Mr Shorten said if the matter was very serious, the Fair Work Commission would be able to refer it to state regulators or make orders itself.

''Workplace bullying is a real issue. It does happen. It's affecting a lot of people and it also affects the profitability of companies too. But, most importantly, people are in turmoil,'' he said.

More to come...

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