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Workplace Practices

Responsibilities in the Workplace

The Senator or Member’s responsibilities in the workplace, on behalf of the Commonwealth, are to:

  • deal honestly and ethically with employees
  • clearly state performance expectations and accountabilities for work roles
  • consult with employees on any decision of the employing Senator or Member to introduce a major change that is likely to have a significant effect on employees
  • ensure good employer practices (for example, work health and safety and freedom from discrimination or harassment) are followed
  • help develop an employee’s skills and abilities
  • fulfil his or her duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

The responsibilities of employees are to:

  • be honest, act legally and with integrity
  • respect privacy and confidentiality of dealings
  • disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest in connection with his or her employment
  • take no advantage of his or her official position to obtain a benefit for him or herself or others
  • work with skill, care and diligence and undertake all work allocated to the agreed standards
  • be responsive to the needs of others and treat other employees and members of the public with courtesy at all times
  • fulfil his or her duties under the WHS Act.

Workplace Practices - General

All employees have the right to be treated fairly and with respect. As an employer, the Commonwealth seeks to promote a work environment which is safe, free from discrimination and harassment and supports both productivity and the self-esteem and personal work goals of employees. While Senators and Members and their employees should initially aim to resolve all matters relating to the workplace within the office, Ministerial and Parliamentary Services is available to assist in these matters.

Consultation with Employees

Major Changes in the Workplace

The Commonwealth Members of Parliament Staff Enterprise Agreement 2016-2019 (the Enterprise Agreement) requires a Senator or Member to consult with the affected employees where the Senator or Member:

  • has made a decision to introduce a major change that is likely to have a significant effect on employees; or
  • proposes to introduce a change to the regular roster or ordinary hours of work of employees.

Details of these consultation arrangements are set out in clause 6 of the Enterprise Agreement.

Work Health and Safety

Under the WHS Act, a Senator or Member has a duty to consult with all workers within their workplace, including volunteers, on work health and safety matters.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Certain employees have the right under the Fair Work Act 2009 to request flexible working arrangements. Senators and Members can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds.

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:

  • hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times)
  • patterns of work (e.g. split shifts or job sharing)
  • locations of work (e.g. working from home).

Employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Requests for flexible working arrangements have to:

  • be in writing
  • explain what changes are being asked for
  • explain the reasons for the request.

Senators and Members who receive a request must give a written response within 21 days saying whether the request is granted or refused. They can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees' working arrangements can't be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of efficiency or productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.
  • Fair Work Ombudsman - Flexible working arrangements

Workplace Diversity Principles

Workplace diversity principles are applied throughout the Commonwealth employment sector. These principles seek to remove discrimination from the workplace, particularly in relation to women, Indigenous people, people of culturally-diverse backgrounds, and people with disabilities.

Work Health and Safety

Senators and Members have duties under the WHS Act, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and relevant State and Territory work health and safety legislation.

Primary Duty

Under the WHS Act, each Senator or Member is responsible for discharging the Commonwealth’s duties under the WHS Act as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) which, in practice, relate to:

  • activities related to the representation of the Senator or Member’s electorate
  • work undertaken at the Senator or Member’s electorate office(s)
  • work undertaken by workers (including MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers and contractors) for the Senator or Member in the electorate office, at Parliament House and at other locations.

Senators and Members must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of:

  • MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers and contractors engaged, or caused to be engaged by the Senator or Member
  • MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers and contractors whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the Senator or Member
  • other persons in the Senator or Member’s workplace.

The duty of care to ensure the safety of workers extends beyond just physical safety. The WHS Act defines the term ‘health’ to mean ‘physical and psychological health’. The duty to provide a workplace that is safe psychologically is a legal obligation for Senators and Members.

To discharge their WHS duties, each Senator or Member will need to establish and maintain, as part of their office management practices, a due diligence framework to meet their safety obligations, taking the following matters into account:

  • a Senator or Member has a duty to consult with all workers within their workplace, including volunteers, on WHS matters
  • volunteers and contractors will be owed the same duties as MOP(S) Act employees or any other worker
  • a Senator or Member retains overall responsibility for compliance with their WHS duties, even if they delegate or contract out activities to others
  • more than one person can concurrently have the same duty—for example, other Senators and Members, the Department of Finance and the Parliamentary departments also have duties towards MOP(S) Act employees
  • if more than one person has a duty under the WHS Act for the same matter, then each person:
    • retains responsibility for their WHS duty in relation to that matter
    • must discharge their WHS duty to the extent that the matter is within the person’s capacity to influence or control
    • must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a WHS duty in relation to the same matter
  • where there are multiple duty-holders in the same workplace, they must consult with each other and workers to determine who has control over activities being undertaken and to what extent.

Officer duty

Senators and Members also have duties as ‘officers’ under the WHS Act. Some MOP(S) Act employees, particularly those with delegated responsibilities for employment matters, may also have duties as an ‘officer’ under the WHS Act.

Worker duty

In addition, Senators and Members, MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers and contractors have duties as ‘workers’ under the WHS Act.

Building a safety culture within the workplace

By actively seeking to comply with their duties as ‘workers’, Senators and Members will send a strong message to MOP(S) Act employees, and to other Senators and Members, that work health and safety is taken seriously in their workplace. If a culture of work health and safety becomes a part of the way things are done in a Senator’s or Member’s workplace, it will assist in ensuring that the workplace is safe and everyone in the workplace meets their duties under the WHS Act.

WHS Site Officers, First Aid Officers and Emergency Officers

WHS Site Officers, First Aid Officers and Emergency Officers coordinate certain WHS tasks at their particular place of employment, performing essential functions that cannot be conducted off-site or remotely, such as hazard management, first aid and fire warden duties. The same MOP(S) Act employee may perform multiple roles.

Senators and Members are required to nominate a WHS Site Officer, First Aid Officer, Emergency Officer and Deputy Emergency Officer for each of their electorate, Ministerial and capital city office(s) located outside Parliament House and the CPOs. Senators and Members with should also nominate a WHS Site Officer for offices located within Parliament House and the CPOs.

The comprehensive position descriptions for WHS Site Officers, First Aid Officers and Emergency Officers provide further information regarding these roles.

Nominations for these positions can be made by using form 144.

Online Work Health and Safety Training

A suite of online WHS training programs is available to all MOP(S) Act employees. The training programs have been tailored for the MOP(S) Act employment framework.

Reporting an Accident or Incident

  • All work-related incidents must be reported.
  • Some serious work-related incidents are notifiable under the WHS Act, and must be reported to Comcare immediately.
  • If in doubt about whether an incident should be reported, it is better to report it than not to do so.
  • Reporting an Incident or Hazard

Ergonomic Assessments

Ergonomic or Worksite Assessments may assist to prevent workplace injuries by ensuring that there is a good fit between a worker and the equipment they use routinely. Generally, equipment can be adjusted to support safe working habits. In some cases, specific ergonomic equipment may be provided to help support a worker with a disability or previous injury.

Employee Assistance Program

Employees, and their immediate family and/or household members, can access an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP provides a free and independent counselling service, and can be accessed for either personal or work-related issues. The contracted service provider has a network of associated counsellors across Australia.

To make an appointment to see a counsellor in your local area, contact the service provider.

Workers’ Compensation

Under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, employees are entitled to claim compensation for an injury or disease which arises out of, or in the course of, their employment.

Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Harassment generally involves unwelcome behaviour that intimidates, offends or humiliates a person because of a particular personal characteristic such as age, race, gender, disability, religion or sexuality.

Under the WHS Act, Senators and Members, MOP(S) Act employees and Finance share the responsibility for eliminating or minimising the risks connected with workplace bullying and harassment. All workers, including Senators and Members and MOP(S) Act employees, have a duty to take reasonable care that their behaviour does not affect their own health and safety, or that of other persons. It is expected that all Senators, Members and their employees will behave in a professional manner, and treat each other with dignity and respect.

All reports of workplace bullying and harassment will be treated seriously by Finance and must be treated seriously within the workplace.

Finance is able to provide advice and assistance to Senators and Members and MOP(S) Act employees who are:

  • experiencing workplace bullying or harassment or
  • managing complaints about workplace bullying or harassment.

Finance’s advice and assistance is tailored to the MOP(S) Act employment framework and the particular circumstance of each case.

What can I do if I am being bullied or harassed at work provides further information, including a number of options for MOP(S) Act employees to consider if they are experiencing workplace bullying or harassment.

The Bullying, Harassment and Workplace Violence Policy and Procedure for MOP(S) Act Employees provides further guidance on what behaviour constitutes bullying, harassment and workplace violence. It also outlines the complaint resolution procedures available to MOP(S) Act employees.

Last updated: 09 December 2019