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Is this another example of nanny state mentality?


By Jo Hartley

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So, Baa Baa Sheep has been shaved of his black coat and in its place grown a rainbow one for fear of being labelled a racist.  Children have been banned from undertaking handstands in schools by the safety/fun police.  Now I read that potential new bullying laws may enable workers to claim compensation for being left idle.  Is this really a serious matter, or just another case of things simply going too far?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone bullying in any shape or form whatsoever.  It is completely unacceptable and completely unnecessary behaviour.  Certainly for those who have been subject to the wrath of a bully (myself included), there is no doubt that it can be a soul destroying and self esteem crushing experience.

However, as reported in yesterday, potential new workplace bullying laws may soon mean that employees find themselves more empowered.  Empowered that is to scream ‘bullied’ and claim compensation in situations which have up until now, been considered the ‘norm’.

The draft code is presently awaiting decision, pending the outcome of a parliamentary enquiry into bullying.  However, already the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has stated that it has “all the worst elements of the nanny state”, and I am inclined to agree.  Surely this kind of potential new law shows us to be somewhat a nation of victims doesn’t it?  A nation who is simply learning all too quickly to throw their hands up in despair when things just simply get too hard!

I personally hung up my corporate attire in exchange for my Mum uniform two years ago.  However, I do feel that some of the ‘issues’ being considered as falling under the bullying umbrella, are really quite ridiculous.

Take for example the fact that if this new law is passed in employees will have the right to claim compensation from their employers for being left idle.  Well, let me tell you now, if they had brought this ruling in a few years ago I could have made millions!  In fact, I would never even have had to think about working again! I really cannot even begin to tell you how many jobs I have worked in where there really was nothing for me to do.  And when I say nothing…..I mean, nothing.  Absolutely and completely nothing. Nada.. zip!

My days would consist of shooting out the odd email, sharing some office gossip over the water cooler or surfing the internet for hours on end – ironically enough, usually looking for other jobs!  Whilst to some this may sound like a dream job, there was many a time when I thought I might just gnaw my own arm off in boredom.  Not to mention the fact that the minutes of the day felt like hours and the hours felt like days.   So you know what I did? I resigned from those jobs! That’s right, I purely and simply left!

As for the employee who may potentially fall into a heap on the floor under the stress of changing deadlines.  Well, seriously, is this not life?  Don’t priorities and deadlines change on a day to day basis? And if you aren’t capable of meeting that expectation (and of course I am again talking within reason here), should you even have applied for, or be in that role in the first instance?

If this ruling does get approved, I think the real victims in all of this are actually going to end up being the employers and sadly small business.  Employers who seem to be caught in something of a catch 22 situation.  Employers who simply can’t seem to do right for doing wrong.  Give an employee too much work and they may just crumble. Yet, take it all away and they may scream ‘bored’ and slap you with a compensation claim!

Of course, every situation and every individual is unique.  That I understand.  However, if this ruling is passed by the Government, another part of me does wonder what will be next?

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Jo Hartley - to view all of Jo's blog post click here

Jo is a blogging mummy and writer living in Sydney who regularly thinks about going to the gym. Whilst Jo used to want it all, she would now happily settle for a skinny bum and the chance to finish a full cup of tea in peace.


  • I’m in two minds about this one. On the one hand I feel that unfortunately small business has the potential to suffer the most with such laws. However on the other hand I think it’s great that measures are being taken to reduce bullying and stress. I previously worked at an investment bank where I worked until 9.30am most nights and weekends – we all did. This was stressful. I do think employers should be accountable for getting their pound of flesh from employees. So all in all I think that these potential laws are actually good as long as they aren’t abused.

  • I once worked briefly with long term unemployed, and saw the pamphlets that were supplied to them: which often brushed aside what seemed to me like workplace bullying as “the Australian way. Just teasing, just a bit of fun. Laugh it off”, etc etc. I felt that this was in no way adequate, and actually seemed to endorse bullying, which is never funny.
    Sexual harassment, like bullying, used to be endemic. After the young woman sued DJs for $35 million !), it was suddenly taken seriously. It is recognised as a serious issue now, and employers are very conscious of it. Maybe a few big fines or such will make employers take bullying seriously, too.
    At the same time, what Jo has outlined here seems to include the ridiculous. Let us hope that common sense prevails.
    Yes, Jo: I used to work in schools but out of H.O.: therefore there were 10 weeks of the year when there was nothing to do. Oh, the boredom. I took to signing in and then going shopping.