March/April 2020 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

The horticulture industry is lucky enough to welcome workers with diverse backgrounds and experiences that make the industry an interesting and exciting place to work. However, these workers may be vulnerable to bullying, harassment and discrimination. This not only forms a health and safety risks for workers but can also prevent them from performing their job well.  

We all deserve a safe place to live and work, therefore Fair Farms encourages growers to have policies and procedures in place to understand, prevent and manage any instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination.  

Bullying and harassment 

Bullying happens when people repeatedly act unreasonably towards someone in a way that can affect that person’s physical or psychological wellbeing. Bullying can either be direct or indirect.  

Direct bullying is negative behaviour that is very clear and explicit, usually conducted to belittle or demean a person. Examples of direct bullying include: 

  • Abusive or offensive language 
  • Regular teasing 
  • Making someone the butt of pranks 

Indirect bullying involves more subtle or indirect behaviours that over an extended period have a negative impact. Examples of indirect bullying include: 

  • Deliberately excluding someone from normal work or social activities 
  • Spreading rumours about someone 
  • Deliberately making someone’s job harder to perform by hiding equipment or giving false information 

Warning signs that bullying might be occurring in your workplace can include high rates of workers calling in sick, an excessive tough guy workplace culture and uneven distribution of work.  

Like bullying, harassment is unwanted or uninvited behaviour that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating. However, unlike bullying, harassment can be a single incident that offends or humiliates someone. Sexual harassment occurs when the behaviour directed at a person is of a sexual nature, is unwelcome and would cause a person to be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment is unlawful under both State and Federal legislation. 


Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably because of a characteristic such as ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Like bullying, discrimination can be direct or indirect. While direct discrimination is very easy to see (eg. only hiring white, Asian or female workers), indirect discrimination can be harder to see. For example, a dress code that requires no facial hair when working on a grading line might unknowingly discriminate against workers who have facial hair for religious reasons.  

Managing these risks 

The first step in managing the risks of bullying, harassment and discrimination is having a clear policy and procedure in place. Your policy should outline: 

  • Your commitment to a safe workplace and intolerance of bullying, harassment and discrimination 
  • The types of issues that are handled under this policy 
  • How your business will handle, investigate and resolve instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination 
  • How workers can seek help, including contact information for counselling and support services 

Once you have a clear policy and procedure in place, it is important to communicate it to all workers and include it in any induction material, so workers feel comfortable and safe to raise an issue. You should also train supervisors or managers in the policy so they are confident in handling arising issues in accordance with the procedures.  

These and other important topics are covered in the Fair Farms Standard, which outline the accepted principles of fair and ethical employment in horticulture. Employers who wish to demonstrate compliance with the Fair Farms Standard can get third-party certified. For more information, visit: or email us at