Bullying and violence at work
Everyone has the right to feel safe at work. This means you should never feel harassed, insulted, intimidated, threatened, or afraid of being hurt when you’re at work.
If you’re the victim of workplace violence or bullying, there’s help available.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying includes things like:
- practical jokes
- being criticised or insulted
- rumours being spread about you
- being threatened with losing your job
- being unreasonably overloaded with work
- constant unwanted attention (stalking)
- being harassed online or via text.
These are only some of the ways you can be bullied.
What is workplace violence?
Workplace violence includes things like:
- someone threatening to hurt you
- being pushed, punched, kicked or shoved
- having things thrown at you
- racist or unwelcome sexual comments
- indecent physical contact (for example, being grabbed or felt up).
This is not a complete list. Workplace violence can take other forms as well.
What you can do about it
You don't have to put up with bullying or violence. In Victoria, you have the right to refuse to work if you’re in immediate danger.
Here are five steps you can take to deal with violence or bullying:
- Tell your employer what happened.
- Take photos of any injuries (go to the doctor and get a WorkSafe medical certificate).
- Get help and advice (see Where to find help, below).
- Report what happened to WorkSafe Victoria.
- Keep a record of what happens to you, including any evidence (like medical certificates, WorkSafe compensation claims and any physical evidence like emails or photos).
It can be hard to tackle a bully on your own. Sometimes it's hard even if you have help from friends or colleagues.
If you need advice or support, you can contact:
- your union (if you’re a union member – visit the Australian Council of Trade Unions for information about unions and how to join)
- your occupational health and safety representative (if your workplace has one)
- an apprenticeship support officer (if you're an apprentice)
- your human resources manager
- WorkSafe Victoria
- JobWatch employment rights legal centre
- the police.
When is workplace bullying and violence a crime?
Most forms of violence and any serious physical, verbal, emotional or online bullying in the workplace are crimes in Victoria.
- any behaviour that causes physical or mental harm (including self-harm)
- threats to kill or hurt you or someone else
If you think you’ve been the victim of a crime, call the police on triple zero (000), or go to your local police station to let them know. Only the police can investigate a crime.
In Victoria there are anti-bullying laws that make serious bullying a crime that can be punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
This law, or legislation, is known as Brodie’s Law, in memory of Brodie Panlock, a young woman who tragically took her own life after relentless bullying at work.
If you’re struggling, you don’t have to face your problems alone. You can get help by contacting:
All these services offer free, confidential support by phone or webchat.
You can also use ReachOut’s NextStep app to get help. The app will ask you some questions about how you’re feeling, and recommend some ways to get help.
These include webchat support services, peer forums where you can meet others online who are going through a similar experience, as well as phone and face-to-face services.
Where to find help
Call these organisations or visit their websites for advice about workplace violence or bullying:
- WorkSafe Victoria – 1800 136 089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Australian Council of Trade Unions – 1300 362 223 or use their online contact form
- JobWatch – 9662 1933 or 1800 331 617
- Get help with your apprenticeship, including contacting an Apprenticeship Support Officer – 1300 311 820 - or email email@example.com