Workplace bullying policy matters are at their peak in Australia this week as public hearings occur at the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment inquiry into workplace bullying. Several experts on the prevention of workplace bullying will be appearing at these hearings but the topicality also allows others to release or promote data on workplace bullying.
Safety Consultants Australia (SCA) released a “blueprint” on Safety Hazard: Workplace Bullying in March 2012 that has been recirculated this week. The blueprint is a useful example of the care that needs to be taken when summarising data on workplace bullying.
SCA states, IN VERY BIG LETTERS, that the Productivity Commission estimated that
“Workplace Bullying costs Australian employers between $6 – $36 billion every year.”
SCA has released a flyer with the same information in EVEN BIGGER LETTERS however the Productivity Commission’s report Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health & Safety (2010) states on page 279:
“Estimates of the prevalence and cost of psychosocial hazards vary considerably. For example, using international studies as a guide, estimates of the annual cost of workplace bullying to employers and the economy in Australia ranged from $6 billion to $36 billion (in 2000).” (Emphasis added)
There is little, if any Australian evidence of the costs of workplace bullying specifically. The Productivity Commission estimate was based on international studies and the estimate was already ten years old when published by the Productivity Commission.
SCA also quotes NSW Workcover as having “investigated 1165 complaints over a 2 year period” (their emphasis). This may be true as references for the data are not provided but it is curious that the WorkSafe Victoria statistics were not quoted. As SafetyAtWorkBlog pointed out 12 months ago :
“The most significant statistic is that, of the 6000 reports of workplace bullying within the last 12 months, only 600 warrant further investigation and, of those, around 60 generate a physical inspection of the workplace.”
Workplace bullying statistics from OHS regulators must be treated with considerable care.
The quote above indicates a disconnection between the public perception and understanding of workplace bullying and the reality that, it is hoped, is redressed by the House Standing Committee’s inquiry.
Any statistics about workplace bullying must be clearly referenced and not quoted out of context, as the Productivity Commission example above illustrates.
The blueprint provides a terrific summary of some of the current thinking on workplace bullying and is supported by David Moore and Linda Scott. David is active on issues such as restorative justice and Linda is a psychologist.
SCA and its legal advisers have been contacted for clarification of some of the statistics quoted.