03 Jul 2014
WorkCover NSW should apologise and accept that it has a problem with institutional bullying, says a state parliamentary committee.
In late June, the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 1 handed down the findings of its inquiry into allegations of bullying in WorkCover NSW.
The inquiry was undertaken in response to a NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) finding that the dismissal of WorkCover employee Wayne Butler was “harsh, unreasonable and unjust” and had the “characterisation of institutional bullying”, the parliamentary committee said.
“The IRC described the investigation of Mr Butler as a ‘witch-hunt’ and speculated that it was motivated by ‘malicious intent’.”
The parliamentary committee’s findings describe the content of submissions made to the inquiry as “very disturbing, highlighting the profound impact that workplace bullying has on people’s mental health, self-worth and job performance”.
The committee gives a damning summation of WorkCover’s poor management practices: “The committee was deeply concerned by evidence [of] alleged widespread use of punitive processes, poor management practices, authoritarianism among senior managers, and denial by senior management that a significant problem of bullying exists within the organisation. The lack of trust between management and staff was very apparent to the committee.”
The committee has recommended that the WorkCover NSW executive team “sincerely apologise” to Mr Butler.
It would also like to see the WorkCover NSW executive team and Safety, Return to Work and Support Board do the following.
“[M]ake a public statement that genuinely: accepts that WorkCover, as an organisation, has a significant problem with workplace bullying; apologises to employees for past wrongs, including in respect of Mr Wayne Butler; accepts the findings of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission in respect of Mr Butler; and commits to addressing, at an organisational level, the problem of bullying.”
The committee has made a number of other recommendations as well.
For more details go to the parliamentary report.
Published on 3 July 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.
05 Jun 2014
Work pressure, harassment and bullying are still costing workers and employers many weeks off work and thousands of dollars for individual compensations claims.
Workers under the pump who lodged mental stress claims took off a median 9.6 weeks with the median cost of each claim being $19,700, says the latest data from Safe Work Australia.
Work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying accounted for 8.4 weeks off work and $18,100.
Also, exposure to workplace or occupational violence resulted in an average 3.1 weeks off work and $6400.
Although overall the frequency of these and other mental stress claims, including exposure to traumatic events and suicide or attempted suicide, have fallen since 2001-2002, harassment and/or bullying has increased.
Also, these figures may underestimate the extent of the problem. “Workers’ compensation data may not be the best way of looking at trends in work-related mental stress as the ability to lodge a claim may be influenced by the legislative process and other external factors,” says the Safe Work Australia data.
For more details, visit the data.
Published on 5 June 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.
10 Apr 2014
The stop bullying application that led to the national anti-bullying panel accepting applications for bullying that occurred before 1 January has been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
Since 1 January, under a new provision in the Fair Work Act 2009, workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work can apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for a stop bullying order.
As reported in an earlier e-bulletin, the full bench of the FWC recently ruled that a claim submitted on 9 January, which alleged that a worker had been bullied before 1 January, was within the FWC’s jurisdiction.
The worker’s employer, Peninsula Support Services Inc trading as Peninsula Support Services (PSS), had submitted that the FWC had no jurisdiction to hear the application because the bullying had occurred before the new laws had come into force.
The full bench sent the stop bullying application back to FWC Commissioner Peter Hampton for determination.
Commissioner Hampton then dealt with another contention submitted by the employer: as the employer wasn’t a constitutionally covered workplace, the FWC had no jurisdiction to hear the stop bullying application.
Commissioner Hampton assessed the claim and agreed with the employer. The application was dismissed.
He made no finding on the bullying allegations.
For more details, visit the ruling.
Published on 10 April 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.
13 Mar 2014
The full bench of the Fair Work Commission has dismissed an employer’s submission that the commission has no jurisdiction to determine stop bullying applications for bullying that occurred before 1 January.
Since 1 January, under a new provision in the Fair Work Act 2009, workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work can apply to the commission for a stop bullying order.
On 9 January, Kathleen McInnes applied for such an order, alleging she had been subjected to bullying from November 2007 to May 2013.
Her employer, Peninsula Support Services Inc trading as Peninsula Support Services (PSS), submitted that the commission had no jurisdiction to hear the application.
The matter was referred to the full bench, and the Commonwealth, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ai Group and the Australian Council of Trade Unions were invited to make submissions. Ai Group and the ACTU made submissions, but the other two declined.
The employer and Ai Group submitted that the commission had no jurisdiction to hear and determine claims involving alleged bullying that occurred before the start of the new law because it would make the law retrospective.
The full bench disagreed , saying it was “not persuaded that entertaining an application” for a stop bullying order based on bullying behaviour alleged to have occurred before the start of the new law would make the law retrospective.
“When considering the question of retrospectivity the authorities draw a distinction between legislation having a prior effect on past events and legislation basing future action on past events,” the full bench said.
The application is back before Commissioner Peter Hampton for determination of the stop bullying order.
Published on 13 March 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.
13 Feb 2014
The new anti-bullying jurisdiction has received 44 stop bullying applications in the first month of its operation.
Administered by the Fair Work Commission, the new anti-bullying laws started on 1 January.
Some applications have been dealt with already and six applications have been withdrawn. As required by the governing legislation, the commission says it commenced all matters within 14 days of receiving the applications.
The number of bullying applications per month may grow.
“January and February traditionally see a smaller number of lodgements with the Commission, particularly in relation to other individual-based rights disputes such as unfair dismissals and general protections,” said Commission President Justice Iain Ross.
“The time of year and the fact that this is a new jurisdiction means that the number of applications received to date is not necessarily indicative of the lodgement trends we will see in future.”
For more details, visit the commission’s anti-bullying website.
Published on 13 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.