Update: Stop Bullying Orders

Stop bullying orders under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) are intended to have a wide application, extending beyond employees to ‘workers’ including contractors, volunteers and students gaining work experience.

Recently, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission in Bibawi v Stepping Stone Clubhouse Inc t/a Stepping Stone [2019] FWCFB 1314 considered whether Bibawi, as a client volunteer intended to benefit from a program, was excluded from the definition of ‘worker’. It was held the Commissioner at first instance was in error by narrowing the application of stop bullying workers.

Bibawi was part of Stepping Stone’s program that aimed to provide experience and vocational skills to improve the well-being of its participants who suffer from mental illnesses. He performed work including data entry, newsletter submissions and general clerical duties. The reasoning for the first decision was the benefit to the ‘participant’ rather than to Stepping Stone.

The Full Bench did not agree that because Bibawi was a client with Stepping Stone that he was “outside the context of paid or unpaid work in the commonly understood sense”, as was held at first instance.

Bibawi was a worker for the purposes of the stop bullying provisions. This decision emphasises the wide application of stop bullying orders extending beyond employees in the traditional sense to include clients or volunteers that are performing work in any capacity, even for their benefit.

The wide application of stop bullying orders means employers must take appropriate precautions. We previously examined 4 ways to manage cyber-bullying in Anti-social media: 4 ways to manage social media and cyber-bullying in the workplace.  

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