Bullying and Harassment FAQs

Below is a list of frequently asked questions relating to bullying and harassment.

Please scroll down the list to locate the FAQ you need.

Preventing and responding to workplace bullying and harassment

The purpose of this Information sheet is to clarify what is/is not workplace bullying and what support and guidance is available to workers. Should you find that further explanation or clarification is required please raise or discuss the matter with your Manager/Supervisor or Fair Treatment Contact Officer (FTCO).

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  • What behaviours are expected at the University?

    The University has a number of policies, procedures and guidelines which set out the expected behaviours at the University.

  • What is workplace bullying?

    For behaviour to be identified as workplace bullying it must be:

    • Repeated – A pattern of behaviour must be able to be identified. It must be more than once; and
    • Unreasonable – the behaviour must be considered unreasonable given the circumstances; and
    • Create a risk to health and safety – it must be likely that exposure to the behaviour in question is likely to create a risk of injury or harm

    Depending on the circumstances bullying is considered misconduct or serious misconduct at the University.

  • What are some examples of behaviour that might be considered bullying?

    As a guide the following behaviours might be considered bullying if repeated as they are viewed as unreasonable and likely to create a risk to health and safety towards a worker or a group of workers.

    • Abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
    • Unjustified criticism or complaints
    • Continuously and deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
    • Withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
    • Setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
    • Setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
    • Denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources such that it is detrimental to the worker
    • Spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
    • Changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers
    • Excessive scrutiny at work

    Note: behaviour online, using social networks, can also be considered bullying behaviour.

  • What is the difference between bullying, harassment and discrimination?

    Discrimination and harassment occurs when someone is treated less favourably than others because they have a particular characteristic or belong to a particular group of people. For example, discrimination and harassment can occur on grounds of

    Age Political belief or activity
    Parental or carer status Physical features
    Disability Race
    Gender identity Religious belief or activity
    Industrial activity Sex or sexuality
    Marital status Pregnancy or breastfeeding
    Identity of Spouse  

    Sexual harassment is also associated with unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

    Discrimination and sexual harassment in employment is unlawful under anti-discrimination, equal employment opportunity, workplace relations and human rights laws. It is possible for a person to be bullied, sexually harassed and discriminated against at the same time. However, a person who is harassed or discriminated against can only be bullying if the behaviour is repeated.

  • What is NOT bullying?

    A number of behaviours/actions are clearly established as not bullying.
    These relate to the day to day management tasks and actions required to ensure operational requirements are met.
    Provided these tasks and actions are carried out in a reasonable way (i.e.are not combined with other unreasonable behaviours) the following cannot be considered bullying:

    • Day to day direction of duty
    • Actions and tasks required by Planning, Development Review (PDR)
    • Actions, tasks and decisions made as part of a “major change” process
    • Promotion and selection
    • Management of poor performance
    • Misconduct or serious misconduct.
  • Who does the HSW Handbook chapter on Preventing and responding to workplace bullying and harassment apply to?

    The responsibilities and duties assigned by the Handbook Chapter apply to workers of the University as defined by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2012 (SA). This would cover staff, contractors, volunteers, titleholders and labour hire workers.

    Students should refer to the Student Grievance Resolution process should they believe they are being bullied and harassed at the University.

  • What can I do if I think I am being bullied or harassed?

    There are a number of things you can do. Above all it’s important that you tell someone.

    In the event you believe you, or a group of workers, may have been subject to workplace bullying or harassing behaviours, you have two options:

    Option 1: Discuss the behaviour with your immediate Supervisor/ Manager (or your Supervisor’s line Manager where applicable)


    Option 2: Contact a Fair Treatment Contact Officer (FTCO) for information on this process and/or the definitions (Section 3.35.7)

    Following discussion with your Supervisor/Manager or FTCO

    • Consider the information provided and the options available to you.
    • Advise your Supervisor/Manager or FTCO, if you wish to resolve your concerns via HR supported mediation by an

    independent and trained mediator, or to formalise your complaint.

  • What is a Fair Treatment Contact Officer (FTCO)?

    A FTCO is a person who has been selected and trained by the University who can be an independent and confidential contact point for anyone who has questions about bullying and harassment processes at the University.
    Workers decide which FTCO they want to discuss their issue(s) with and then approach them (via email or telephone) to make a time to meet. It is not the FTCO’s role to :

    • Advocate on behalf of individuals
    • Undertake mediation or investigation
    • Provide grievance resolution
    • Be involved in cases where there may be a perception, real orotherwise, of conflict of interest.
  • What do I do if I am accused of bullying or harassment?

    Workers who have been accused of bullying or harassment can discuss the matter with:

    • their Manager/Supervisor
    • a FTCO
    • Human Resources, either through the HR Advisory Team or the Division/Faculty HSW Manager for advice and assistance.
  • Can I still get help from the Employee Assistance Provider (EAP)?

    Yes. If you feel that you would like to talk to an external person who can provide free support and counselling to you or your family members the option is open to you.

  • Where do I obtain further information on the Preventing and responding to workplace bullying and harassment?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the HSW Team

Fair treatment contact officers (FTCO)

The purpose of this Information sheet is to clarify what Fair Treatment Contact Officers (FTCOs) are, why they are important and what they do.  Should you find that further explanation or clarification is required please raise or discuss the matter with your HR Advisor (HRA) or Fair Treatment Contact Officer (FTCO).

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  • What are FTCOs?

    FTCOs are staff who are appointed and trained by HR to assist staff with any enquiries about discrimination, sexual harassment or bullying.  Students seeking support should contact an Education Welfare Officer.  The FTCO is an entirely voluntary role.

    FTCOs are trained in the various University polices, procedures and guidelines which set out the expected behaviours at the University, including:

    The HSW Handbook chapter Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying.

  • Why are FTCOs important?

    FTCOs play a vital role for the University because they:

    • Can provide, distribute and explain information in a confidential and independant manner
    • Provide a voluntary service to staff, volunteers and the University community
    • Contribute to the University goals of a safe, healthy and harmonious workplace
    • Provide a peer contact point for staff that is aware of the University work environment and its orgainsational factors.
  • Attributes required to be a FTCO?

    Prior to being appointed to the role, the FCTO must show they have:

    • A commitment to  Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), diversity principles and the need to address bullying behaviours from the workplace
    • The ability to liaise effectively with people at all levels of the University whilst acting discretely, objectively, impartially and maintaining confidentiality
    • The capacity to be accessible to staff when required.
  • What will a FTCO do?

    FTCOs will:

    • Listen to you if you feel you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed or bullied
    • Help you clarify the types of behaviour you are concerned about
    • Offer and explain the difference between formal and informal options for dealing with your concerns
    • Maintain confidentiality
    • Perform their role should questions or matters needing clarification arise during a complaints process
  • What won’t a FTCO do?

    • Discuss your case with anyone without your permission.
    • Advocate on your behalf or become involved in informal or formal resolution processes
    • Act to resolve or investigate your complaint
    • Take over your case or try to push you to take any particular action
    • Make any finding or determination that you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed or bullied
  • How does the FTCO role fit into the workplace?

    The role of the FTCO is a voluntary role and requires the ongoing approval of the staff members manager/supervisor.

    FTCO’s may receive enquiries from within or outside their own work area.  They may be called upon at short notice, if available, to deal with people who are in an emotional or distressed state.  The demands placed on a FTCO may vary but generally involve:

    • meeting with an individual or group for an hour;
    • providing clarification on reasonable behaviour; and/or
    • informing the individual of the various options to resolve their concerns.

    Ongoing professional development, support and training is provided to a FTCO (subject to the ongoing approval of their supervisor) to ensure they are equipped to handle the requirements of this voluntary role.

  • Is contact with an FTCO confidential?

    Yes, unless you disclose an unlawful act or the health and safety of someone is at serious risk.

  • What information will the FTCO collect?

    A FTCO will collect de-identified information to inform the University of specific training and development needs. Your FTCO should show you the form at the beginning of your meeting.

Support for Students

The purpose of these FAQs is to identify how to assist students who have been effected by bullying and/or harassment.

Support for staff in dealing with inappropriate student behaviour

The purpose of these FAQs is to identify how to assist students who have been effected by bullying and/or harassment.

  • What support is available for staff in dealing with inappropriate student behaviour?

    The Early Intervention Group (EIG) is responsible for matters pertaining to inappropriate behaviour by students.

    For further information, please look at the procedures for reporting inappropriate, concerning or threatening student behaviour.

    Students, staff and other members of the University community who observe student behaviour that is of concern can complete a Behavioural Incident Report Form, and send it to the EIG at eig@adelaide.edu.au or Student Affairs.

    Even where no action is required, it is important to record incidents centrally so that the University can monitor any repeat behaviour.

    Members of the University community who observe or are confronted by a student behavioural incident which has the potential for harm to others or self-harm and requires immediate attention should first contact Security Services on the emergency telephone number: 8313 5444 (extn 35444).

    More information can be found on the Inappropriate Behaviour By Students website.

Further information

Please contact your local HSW team.