Reporting workplace bullying or harassment to Finance

Making a report

A MOP(S) Act employee can report workplace bullying and/or harassment hazards or incident to Finance at any time, verbally or in writing, by:

Information related to each report made to Finance is shared strictly on a need-to-know basis; no information will be shared with individuals or groups that do not have a genuine working need to know.

Reports by witnesses

Witnesses may report workplace bullying and harassment. All identified workplace bullying and harassment hazards or incidents should be reported so that they can be dealt with promptly.

Anonymous reports

Anonymous reports are discouraged. Where a complainant wishes to make an anonymous report, they must state that preference at the beginning of their report. Finance will accept and record anonymous reports, noting that:

  • anonymous reports are likely to be ineffective in changing a pattern of unreasonable behaviour
  • Finance’s capacity to act on an anonymous report is likely to be limited to providing general information
  • Finance cannot guarantee that anonymity will be preserved if the complainant’s identity becomes known to it
  • Finance may have duties to disclose the identity or suspected identity of a complainant in certain circumstances, for example, where there is an immediate risk to the health and safety of any person, including the complainant.

What happens when a report is made to Finance?

Finance will evaluate the report, and co-ordinate a response that:

  • aims to eliminate or minimise any risks to the health and safety of the complainant and other persons in the workplace
  • is proportionate to the immediate risks identified by the complainant and Finance
  • takes into account other relevant information Finance may be aware of
  • considers, but cannot guarantee, the outcome preferred by the complainant.

Finance’s response may include any or several of the following steps, depending on its evaluation of the severity of the situation.

a.  Information

In all cases, Finance will:

  • provide the complainant with information about:
    • workplace bullying and harassment
    • how options that may be available to attempt to resolve the situation are likely to work within the MOP(S)Act employment framework
    • available support services
    • access to workers’ compensation for sick or injured MOP(S) Act employees
  • encourage the complainant to access the Employee Assistance Program
  • consult with:
    • the complainant
    • the person(s) alleged to have engaged in the bullying or harassing behaviour
    • the employing Parliamentarian

    regarding options to attempt to resolve the situation

  • encourage all parties to:
    • access available training
    • adopt workplace practices and procedures to minimise the risks associated with the situation.

b.  Mediation

Where appropriate to the circumstances, and subject to the complainant’s consent, Finance will facilitate the provision of professional mediation services to facilitate discussions between:

  • the complainant
  • the person who is alleged to have engaged in the bullying or harassing behaviour
  • the Parliamentarian, where appropriate
  • other persons in the workplace, where appropriate.

Mediation is a voluntary process where a trained mediator assists the parties to put their respective cases before each other. The role of a mediator is to assist all parties to understand the perspective of the others and to find an agreement the parties are willing to abide by.

The form that mediation will take may vary according to the particular circumstances of an allegation and the mediator’s preferred mode of operation. The following scenario is therefore indicative of the general process.

A meeting is arranged, where possible, with relevant parties to the complaint present, in order to establish the basis of the complaint and attempt to resolve the issue. Complaints must be fully described by the complainant, and each person who is alleged to have engaged in the bullying or harassing behaviour is given the full details of the complaint(s) against them. In addition, the person who is alleged to have engaged in the bullying or harassing behaviour will have the opportunity to prepare and present their side of the story before resolution is attempted. The aim of this meeting is to discuss and agree to options for resolution. The meeting will be documented by the mediator and a record of the discussion and agreed outcomes provided to each party.

If the complainant feels uncomfortable with the other party or parties being present then, as soon as practicable, separate meetings will be held between each party and the mediator, as appropriate to the circumstances, to explain the formal process and each party’s rights and responsibilities. Subject to the consent of each party to the complaint, information provided by one party may be shared with the other parties, and follow-up separate meetings held, in an attempt to discuss and agree to options for resolution. All meetings will be documented and a record of the discussion and agreed outcomes provided to each party to the complaint.

c.  Investigation

Where less intrusive approaches have not resolved the situation, or the situation indicates a serious risk to health and safety if it continues, Finance may arrange a workplace investigation by an independent contracted provider who specialises in the field.

The aim of an investigation is to look into the circumstances of the matter, work out what has occurred and what the appropriate course of action is. Investigators contracted by Finance are required to be impartial and objective. The investigator will focus on whether or not an allegation of workplace bullying or harassment is substantiated or not, or if there is insufficient information to decide either way.

All parties to an investigation are able to seek independent advice and representation, and to have a representative present at interviews. It is recommended that a party who is considering refusing to participate should seek independent advice on this course of action.

To ensure the investigation process is conducted in a fair, objective and timely way, all parties are kept informed, by either Finance or the investigator, as relevant, about:

  • who is conducting the investigation
  • how the parties will be kept informed throughout the investigation and of what they will be informed
  • the expected timeframe of the investigation
  • how the issue will be investigated (e.g. interviews with the parties and any witnesses, viewing documentary evidence)
  • what interim measures are available to ensure the health and safety of the parties during the investigation processes
  • who will receive copies of any statements and records of interviews.

Likely outcomes of an investigation

At the end of an investigation, the investigator will provide a report to Finance, who will then use the findings of the investigation to discuss options for further action with the Parliamentarian. Any actions arising from this discussion will be communicated to the parties involved by Finance, or the Parliamentarian, depending on who will be responsible for the action.

An investigation may find that a report of bullying or harassment is not substantiated and no further action can be taken. If the allegation cannot be substantiated, this does not mean the bullying or harassing behaviour did not occur and regardless of whether or not a complaint is substantiated, measures may need to be taken to resolve any outstanding issues. Measures may involve mediation, individual or group counselling, training, changing working arrangements or addressing other issues within the office that may have contributed to the behaviour occurring.

Where a complaint is substantiated, Finance has no capacity to take disciplinary action against either a Parliamentarian or a MOP(S) Act employee.

Where a complaint against an employee is substantiated, the Parliamentarian may decide to take appropriate management action. The actions taken by a Parliamentarian are likely to be different in each situation and depend on the severity and frequency of the bullying or harassment, and the size and structure of the Parliamentarian's office. Such actions may include:

  • gaining a commitment that the behaviour will not be repeated and monitoring this over time
  • providing information to all workers to raise awareness of bullying and harassment within the workplace
  • directing employees to undertake relevant training
  • gaining a commitment that employees will undertake counselling support and/or mentoring
  • requesting an apology
  • regular monitoring of behaviours, or
  • issuing a verbal or written warning.

It is likely that a combination of strategies will be appropriate to prevent bullying or harassing behaviour from reoccurring.

In more significant cases, the Parliamentarian may wish to consider whether it is appropriate for the employment to continue, and if so, whether the employee’s role should change. Parliamentarians are encouraged to consult with their Advice and Support Director to ensure consistency with the MOP(S) Act employment framework and the Fair Work Act, if they are contemplating:

  • changing task assignments, roles, or the allocation of positions within their office, or
  • terminating a staff member’s employment.

If the allegation is found to be vexatious or malicious, disciplinary action or counselling may be considered. Any action taken by the Parliamentarian should be consistent with the MOP(S) Act employment framework and the Fair Work Act.

Advice and Support Directors are available to discuss whether a proposed course of action contemplated by a Parliamentarian is consistent with the MOP(S) Act employment framework and the Fair Work Act. ,

Where a complaint against a Parliamentarian is substantiated, any follow up action is a matter for judgement by the employee(s) concerned, taking into account the particular circumstances and consequences of the complaint. Follow up action could include raising the matter with Comcare, the Fair Work Commissioner the Australian Human Rights Commission, depending on the particular circumstances. An employee considering other action should seek independent legal advice.

d.  Comcare intervention

Where evidence available to Finance indicates that a workplace may be unsafe, and a workplace investigation:

  • is not suitable in the particular circumstances, or
  • has been conducted with no subsequent improvement in the situation.

Finance may raise the issue with Comcare.