Australian lawyers comment on Brodie’s Law

Clayton Utz lawyers have looked at Victoria’s new bullying-related law changes for their relevance to workplace safety management and have found the following.

Is this an issue for employers?

Yes and no.

Theoretically, even before these proposed amendments, certain types of workplace bullying already fell within the definition of stalking.  In one sense, therefore, this doesn’t change the situation much – employers already had the potential problem of, for example, dealing with keeping apart at work a victim and stalker subject to an intervention order.

In another sense, this is clearly an important change.  More types of workplace bullying are now criminalised, and public awareness of bullying issues will certainly have been increased by the publicity surrounding this Bill.  We can therefore expect a rise in complaints and the number of victims coming forward, and not just in Victoria, as other States and Territories have stalking laws that could cover at least some types of workplace bullying.”

Clearly the awareness of bullying in the workplace is already high but these laws are likely to make the management of this issue more complex and and challenging.

Significantly they emphasise that the new laws focus on the behaviour of individuals but how effective will that approach be.  They ask

What are the practical implications of treating workplace bullying as a type of stalking?

The first, and most obvious, is that committing the offence of stalking can attract jail time of up to ten years. While this is a serious penalty, it only works as a deterrent if potential bullies are actually aware of it.”

Communication of any law is a difficult proposition but the challenge is often greater with young people.  There is the obvious option of social media but is this the best media for this type of communication, particularly given that the social media is often used for bullying and stalking.  If not this media, then what?

Many schools are already running sessions on the threats and dangers of cyberbullying.  Traditional bullying is being addressed at primary school levels as students transition to secondary schools.

The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 has not yet passed the Victorian Parliament so changes are possible, in fact, all bills should have some changes as drafters are not perfect.  OHS is not the focus of these legal amendments but if you have a young workforce, as existed in Cafe Vamp, where Brodie Panlock worked, this will be a workplace safety issue to carefully monitor.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

3 thoughts on “Australian lawyers comment on Brodie’s Law”

  1. Its a shame that somebody had to die to get such a bill passed.
    But brodies law is a great step forward in stamping out an all to common workplace issue.
    Well done on passing the bill god bless Brodie.

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