The cost of workplace bullying

The Productivity Commission in Australia has used international studies to estimate that the cost of workplace bullying in Australia is between $6 billion and $36 billion annually.

This cost is around $250,000 per 100 full time employees.

According to the Productivity Commission direct costs to employers result from:

  • absenteeism;
  • staff turnover;
  • legal and compensation costs; and
  • redundancy and early retirement payouts.

Hidden direct costs include:

  • management time consumed in addressing claims for bullying;
  • investigating allegations of bullying through formal grievance procedures; and
  • workplace support services such as counselling.

Other costs include the loss of productivity resulting from:

  • reduced performance of victims who continue to work;
  • replacing victims with initially less experienced and so less productive staff; and
  • internal transfers, and loss or absenteeism of co-workers

Victims of bullying also bear significant costs. These costs can include:

  • isolation and withdrawal;
  • fear of dismissal or loss of job promotion opportunities;
  • stress and anxiety;
  • low self esteem;
  • other mental health symptoms; and
  • a number of physical symptoms.

Other costs to the economy include:

  • public sector costs such as the health and medical services needed to treat bullied individuals;
  • income support and other government benefits provided to victims of bullying who become unemployed; and
  • the legal costs associated with pursuing formal complaints.

It has been estimated that between 2.5 million and 5 million Australians experience some aspect of bullying over the course of their working lives.

Source: Productivity Commission 2010, Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health & Safety, Research Report, Canberra.


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