21 min read


Last updated September 2020

This chapter explains the health and safety risks and legal ramifications of workplace bullying, and how you can prevent and respond to it.

What is bullying?

Bullying is harmful behaviour that is directed towards a person or group of people, and:

  • is repeated;
  • is unreasonable;
  • is unwelcome; and
  • causes either physical or psychological harm.
Definition: Repeated

Repeated means behaviour that is persistent or a range of behaviours that occurs over time.
Definition: Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would consider victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening.
Important: Health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions imposes a general duty on you to protect the health, safety, and welfare of your workers. Bullying poses a risk to health and safety, so your general duty requires you to do everything reasonably practicable to prevent or minimise the risk of bullying in your workplace.

A wide range of injuries and illnesses can result from bullying, including:

  • anxiety;
  • depression;
  • insomnia;
  • stress;
  • self-harm;
  • eating disorders; and
  • suicide.
Caution: When people are suffering from stress or other psychological illnesses, they are more prone to developing physical illnesses. Things like the common cold will occur more often in those workers with stress-related illnesses.