Workplace stalking – what should employers do?


Workplace stalking – what should employers do?

What should you do if an employee is receiving threatening phone calls at work? Gaby Grammeno explains.


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What should we do if an employee is receiving threatening phone calls at work?

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Q One of our employees is being stalked by someone while she is at work. She has received unsavoury, suggestive, threatening phone calls. We've notified police about the behaviour and implemented further controls to screen calls and manage staff safety in the work grounds.

What is our duty of care in this situation?
A An employer’s duty of care extends to the management of risks to an employee who is being stalked while at work, as far as is reasonably practicable. The likelihood and potential severity of the possible adverse consequences should be assessed, and suitable risk control measures need to be put in place.

You have done the right thing by notifying the police – the Australian Human Rights Commission advises that some types of workplace bullying are criminal offences, and violence, assault and stalking should be reported to the police.

The other risk control measures you mention are also appropriate. Threatening phone calls are unacceptable, and this certainly justifies the screening of calls to the staff member concerned. It may help to provide the staff member with a new direct phone number and email address.
Depending on the circumstances and the likelihood of your staff member being harmed, it may also be advisable to review your existing arrangements with regard to access to the premises. Consider questions such as whether the stalker could just walk in without anyone stopping them; whether the staff member sometimes works late and leaves when there is no-one around; the staff member’s means of transport between home and work (eg. does the staff member walk to the nearest railway station, or walk to a car parked some distance from the workplace); lighting on work grounds, and so on, as relevant to the situation.

Other risks control measures that could be considered, depending on the assessment of the level of threat, include:
  • circulating the stalker’s photograph to other employees, such as those in reception areas
  • installing security cameras at strategic points
  • tightening building access requirements
  • arranging for the staff member to always leave the workplace in the company of someone else
  • providing relevant employees with information and training on security issues and how to handle potential stalkers
  • providing the staff member with a duress alarm
  • helping with the collection of documentation to support a criminal prosecution, or
  • anything else recommended by the police.
Any such risk control measures should be discussed with the staff member concerned, and that person’s consent should be obtained before involving other staff (such as human resources personnel) in the discussions, in order to maintain proper confidentiality.
For more information on stalking at the workplace, see the Workplace OHS website.
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