Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Procedure

Policy Procedures Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Procedure

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The purpose of this procedure is to provide guidance in the promotion of a safe workplace and to outline procedures in the management of claims of workplace bullying and intimidation.


This procedure applies to all James Cook University staff and students.


Workplace bullying - repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour - the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour - behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that can be interpreted as victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.


1. Types of behaviour

1.1 Bullying behaviour ranges from physical and verbal assault, including electronic and online (such as text messages, email or social media), and abuse through to the very subtle such as continually undermining another person. Examples of behaviour, whether intentional or unintentional, that may be considered to be workplace bullying if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety include but are not limited to:

  • Physical or verbal assault;
  • Belittling opinions or constant criticism;
  • Yelling or screaming or offensive language;
  • Derogatory, demeaning or inappropriate comments or jokes about a person's appearance, lifestyle and background;
  • Insults;
  • Isolating workers from normal work interaction, training and development or career opportunities;
  • Overwork, unnecessary pressure and unreasonable deadlines;
  • Tampering with someone's personal effects, work materials or equipment;
  • An unacceptably aggressive behaviour by a more senior officer;
  • Undermining work performance by deliberately withholding work-related information, access, support or resources or supplying incorrect information;
  • Underwork, creating a feeling of uselessness;
  • Unexplained job changes, meaningless tasks, tasks beyond a person's skills and training;
  • Over detailed supervision and unwarranted checking of performance;
  • Unreasonable "administrative sanctions" such as undue delay in processing applications for training, leave or expenses.

1.2 Bullying may comprise one or a number of the types of behaviour listed above.

2. Responsibilities of managers and supervisors

2.1 This procedure recognises that in some situations, people may not be aware that their behaviour is unacceptable or offensive. It is the manager’s/supervisor’s responsibility to set acceptable and appropriate standards and apprise staff of their responsibilities.

2.2 Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to:

  • Proactively promote a workplace free from bullying and intimidation and act on incidents;
  • Provide for appropriate training and information to staff of the work area about what are acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviours;
  • Inform staff of the actions they can take if they feel they are being bullied or intimidated including provision of a list of designated harassment contact officers;
  • Arrange or provide adequate and appropriate support to staff who make a complaint about bullying, including ensuring that the matter is treated confidentially and that the complainant is not victimised;
  • Deal fairly with all persons involved in allegations of bullying and intimidation including ensuring due process.

3. Informal complaints

3.1 A staff member who feels they are being bullied or intimidated may:

  • Raise the matter with the alleged perpetrator(s) of the bullying or intimidation by talking or writing to them;
  • Seek confidential advice, support and assistance from a discrimination and bullying adviser; including discussion of the most appropriate way of handling the matter;
  • Make an informal complaint to an appropriate manager or supervisor, asking that the alleged perpetrator be spoken to (the staff member may be accompanied by a, another staff member or a union representative, should they so choose, in a meeting with the manager or supervisor. In cases where the alleged perpetrator is the staff member's manager or supervisor, the informal complaint may be referred to the next level manager or supervisor.)

4. Conciliation of complaints

4.1 Staff members who feel they are being bullied or intimidated may seek to resolve the issues through conciliation. Requests for conciliation should be made by the staff member, or by a union delegate or officer on their behalf, to the Director, Human Resources. Conciliation shall be confidential and with the objective of reaching an agreed settlement between the person raising the allegation of bullying or intimidation and the person or persons complained against.

4.2 No person can be required to participate in conciliation but must be informed that allegations have been made against them which could lead to a formal complaint.

5. Making a formal complaint

5.1 A staff member who feels they are being bullied or intimidated is entitled to make a formal complaint to the Director, Human Resources. The complaint may be made by another staff member or a union representative should they so choose, on behalf of a staff member.

5.2 The complaint shall be in writing and provide sufficient information for the Director, Human Resources to assess whether an investigation is warranted. The Director may seek further information from the complainant or the union in order to ascertain whether an investigation is warranted. The complaint should include details of what informal steps have been taken to seek to resolve the matter or, if these have not been taken, why they are inappropriate.

5.3 If the Director, Human Resources considers an investigation is warranted, the Director will instigate an investigation of the complaint. Consideration as to whether an investigation is warranted may include where:

  • Informal efforts have not resolved the matter;
  • And/or someone complained against has refused to participate in, or withdrawn from, conciliation;
  • An alternative method of resolution is considered to be more appropriate.

6. Investigation of formal complaints

6.1 Where the Director, Human Resources assesses that an investigation of a complaint is warranted, the Director will instigate a formal investigation into whether or not bullying or intimidation has occurred and, if so, who have been the perpetrators.

6.2 Investigations shall be overseen by the Director, Human resources and shall ensure compliance to the policy principles and to this procedure.

6.3 The person(s) against whom the complaint is made will be informed of the allegations and advised of their entitlement to be assisted by a work colleague or a union representative, should they so choose. They will also be advised that the outcome of the investigation could lead to disciplinary action.

6.4 The Director shall ensure that whatever the outcome of the complaint, the complainant is not victimised.

6.5 The investigation may include gathering evidence from the complainant, the person(s) against whom the complaint is made and other relevant persons. The investigation shall be made in a timely manner, but ensure that all parties have adequate time and resources to provide relevant information. The report of the investigation shall be provided to the Director, Human Resources, the complainant and the person(s) against whom the complaint was made.

7. Action on the report

7.1 On receipt of the report of an investigation the Director, Human Resources shall determine:

  • Whether or not disciplinary action is warranted against the person or persons subject to the complaint;
  • Remedial actions which should be taken by the manager or supervisor of the complainant to prevent workplace bullying or intimidation;
  • Whether compensation or other restitution should be made to the complainant;
  • Whether counselling, conciliation or mediation should be provided.

8. Privilege

8.1 All information gathered from participants in informal and formal complaints of workplace bullying or intimidation is privileged information so long as the complaint is made and dealt with in accordance with the University Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Policy. This privilege extends to employees of the University who are representing or assisting complainants and those complained against. The University undertakes to protect and indemnify such staff members by defense of qualified privilege.

8.2 This privilege does not extend to:

  • Evidence and actions of parties who acted with ill will or for any improper motive and who believes the defamatory matter to be untrue;
  • Situations where the manner or extent of the publication of defamatory material is excessive for the occasion; or
  • If defamatory material is irrelevant to the workplace bullying or intimidation matter attracting qualified protection.

8.3 Acknowledgement: This section on Legal Obligations was adapted from the information sheet included in “Workplace Bullying: An Employers Guide”, Queensland Government, Workplace Health & Safety, 2002

9. Consequences of breaching this policy

9.1 Disciplinary action may be taken against a person who is found to have breached this policy.

9.2 Any disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the Agreement under which they are employed. This will depend on the nature and circumstances of each breach and in accordance with the relevant JCU Policy / Code of Conduct / Enterprise Agreement.

9.3 A report of the investigation into a formal complaint may be used to formulate allegations of misconduct or serious misconduct.

10. Complaints not substantiated

10.1 When the complaint is found to be not substantiated, the Director, Human Resources shall so advise the complainant and the respondent. If necessary, a relevant senior officer of the University shall be requested, to take appropriate steps to prevent the complainant or the person against whom the complaint was made, being subjected to reprisals or discrimination of any kind by any person by reason of the complaint having been made.

10.2 If the investigation finds bullying has not occurred or cannot be substantiated, James Cook University may still take appropriate action to address any associated workplace issues arising from and related to the investigation.

10.3 If the complaint is found to be frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith, the relevant Deputy Vice Chancellor shall be so informed.

Related policy instruments

Related policy instruments include but are not limited to the following documents. Further related instruments can be found at the JCU Human Resources website.

  • Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Policy
  • Discrimination and Harassment: Policy and Procedures



Related documents and legislation

Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying, Safe Work Australia 

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

JCU Enterprise Agreement

JCU Code of Conduct


Approval Details

Policy Sponsor

Deputy Vice Chancellor Services and Resources

Procedure Approval Authority

Deputy Vice Chancellor Services and Resources

Date for next review

31 July 2018

Revision History

[Approval date - the date the approval authority approved the establishment, amendment or disestablishment]

[Implementation Date - the date the policy was published in the Policy Library and is the date the policy takes effect]


Approval date

Implementation date





23 July 2015

Updated to align with JCU’s Policy Framework. Updated definitions in line with WHS Act 2011. Inclusion of Clauses to show Consequences of breach the Policy (replacing previous Disciplinary Action section) and management of Complaints not substantiated. Specifically referencing electronic/online as a type of bullying behaviour.






Bullying, intimidation