Former Mediator &
Business Adviser

The cost of workplace bullying

by Paul Gerrard

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.