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Parliamentarian's Responsibilities

Parliamentarians:
  • discharge duties under WHS legislation
  • adopt good workplace practices
  • manage hazards and risks; and

Parliamentarians must:

Discharge their duties under WHS legislation

Under WHS legislation, each Parliamentarian must:

  • to discharge the Commonwealth’s primary duty:
    • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who carry out work for the Parliamentarian, including MOP(S) Act employees
  • to discharge his or her own duties as an officer:
    • acquire, and keep up-to-date, knowledge of work health and safety matters, including:
      • the hazards and risks associated with workplace bullying and harassment; and
      • strategies to prevent and respond to workplace bullying and harassment;
    • ensure that appropriate resources (within the current limits of the work expenses framework and the Parliamentarian’s capacity to control the allocation of resources within his or her workplaces), are dedicated to eliminating or minimising the risks to health and safety from workplace bullying and harassment
    • ensure that appropriate processes are in place for the Parliamentarian to receive information regarding bullying and harassment within his or her workplaces and respond to that information in an appropriate and timely way
    • verify that the systems and processes within each of his or her workplaces to prevent and respond to bullying and harassment, whether put in place by the Parliamentarian or by Finance, are operating towards that end. This may include verifying that:
      • all persons within the workplace understand the Parliamentarian’s expectations regarding workplace behaviour
      • all MOP(S) Act employees within the workplace are familiar with and comply with this policy
      • all workers know how to report bullying and harassment risks, and all WHS hazards and incidents are reported
      • all workers are consulted on matters that may affect their health or safety, including their psychological health and safety
      • all workers receive WHS induction information, undertake bullying and harassment awareness training provided by Finance, and know how to access the WHS resources on the Ministerial and Parliamentary Services website
      • all MOP(S) Act employees are aware of the Health and Safety Representatives for their work group.
    • to discharge his or her own duties as a worker, while at work:
      • take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety
      • take reasonable care that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.

Parliamentarians should:

a.  Adopt good workplace practices

Sound management practices and effective communication can assist in creating a workplace environment that discourages bullying and harassment. To minimise and respond to risks of workplace bullying or harassment, a Parliamentarian should:

  • promote a workplace culture free from bullying or harassment:
    • adopt and promote this policy within his or her workplace(s)
    • clarify, and model, the standards of behaviour that he or she expects within the workplace
    • undertake online training and attend information sessions on preventing bullying and harassment offered to Parliamentarians by Finance and/or Comcare
    • clearly indicate that workplace bullying and harassment by a worker will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action
    • clearly state his or her commitment to positive working relationships
    • ensure that any person with management responsibilities within the workplace is accountable, to the Parliamentarian, for creating a workplace culture in which bullying and harassment are unacceptable
    • encourage workers to take action if they believe they have been bullied or harassed, or observed workplace bullying or harassment
    • respond to disharmony, conflict or unacceptable behaviour within the workplace promptly, to minimise the risk of escalation
    • adopt a risk management approach within the workplace, to identify and address risks that may contribute to the occurrence of workplace bullying, harassment or violence.
  • adopt transparent and fair performance management practices:
    • recruit workers whose skills, experience and temperament are suitable for the work they are required to do
    • ensure that the roles and responsibilities of each worker are understood, by providing:
      • duty statements
      • clear expectations about the quality and quantity of work required
      • routine feedback on performance
      • transparent reporting lines and decision-making responsibilities, especially when the Parliamentarian is absent
    • provide opportunities for discussion with workers about mutual expectations, goals, how they manage their duties, and career development
    • ensure that staff who are not performing well have problem areas clearly identified and are given the opportunity to improve. Finance Advice and Support Directors can provide advice on managing underperformance
    • ensure that management measures that address performance and behavioural issues within the office are transparent and fair. Finance Advice and Support Directors can provide advice on managing difficult employment situations in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act).
  • consult with workers regularly regarding:
    • matters that affect their health and safety in the workplace, with regard to the consultation duties in the WHS Act
    • major workplace changes, with regard to the consultation framework set out in the Commonwealth Members of Parliament Staff Enterprise Agreement 2016‑2019
    • other issues that relate to their work or workplace, to prevent those issues escalating.

b.  Identify hazards

Parliamentarians should adopt systems within their workplaces that will assist them to identify hazards by considering factors that may indicate, or contribute to, employees being exposed to workplace bullying or harassing behaviour. These factors may include:

  • direct information:
    • specific complaints
    • feedback about the effect of their own, or another person’s behaviour
    • workers’ compensation claims
  • indirect information:
    • absence patterns, particularly unexpected or unexplained absences
    • withdrawn employees
    • a tense working environment that persists
    • a culture of complaint within the workplace, or
    • regular resignations
  • organisational issues:
    • nature of the work
    • restructuring, or unexpected change
    • staff shortages, or
    • job uncertainty – for example, during an election campaign
  • operational issues, for example, an employee:
    • adopting regular patterns of working alone, or out of hours, or
    • arranging, or seeking to arrange, their work patterns to avoid a particular person
  • environmental factors:
    • physical layout of the office
    • location of the office, or
    • maintenance of the workplace, for example, cluttered work areas, or shared areas such as kitchens, may indicate, or contribute to, interpersonal conflict.

c.  Assess risks

Once a workplace bullying or harassment hazard is identified, the risk of potential harm needs to be assessed in terms of its likelihood and impact on employees and the office environment. There are potentially significant consequences of workplace bullying, harassment and violence that include:

  • individual physical and psychological health;,
  • employment costs;,
  • legal action
  • reputational damage.

d.  Mitigate risks

Parliamentarians are responsible for managing employment arrangements within their office to reduce the likelihood of incidents, or the risk of further incidents. This may include:

  • counselling staff
  • directing staff to undertake training
  • issuing cautions or taking other disciplinary action
  • changing working arrangements, either permanently or temporarily, in consultation with the affected employee, to minimise the risk of conflict between employees, for example:
    • varying the location where work is undertaken
    • varying an employee’s agreed hours of work
    • varying collaborative working arrangements within the office, or
    • varying the reporting lines within the office.

e.  Manage reports of bullying

When a specific complaint of bullying and harassment is made against a Parliamentarian, or a MOP(S) Act employee, the employing Parliamentarian should:

  • assure the complainant that the matter will be dealt with seriously, promptly and impartially
  • where appropriate to the specific circumstances, encourage the complainant to attempt to resolve the situation themselves using an early intervention approach, and facilitate their efforts if requested
  • discuss the matter with their Advice and Support Director as soon as practicable, so that a proportionate response to the situation, consistent with this policy, can be initiated
  • ensure procedural fairness for everyone involved:
    • share information only on a ‘need to know’ basis
    • the person making the report must not be victimised
    • the person who is alleged to have engaged in the bullying or harassing behaviour:
      • should be treated as innocent unless the allegations are proven
      • should be given a chance to explain his or her version of events
      • must not be victimised
  • witnesses should be encouraged to speak up and must not be victimised for doing so
  • all persons in the workplace should be supported to access information and services that could assist them to:
    • resolve the matter quickly, or
    • manage the resolution process
  • keep accurate records of:
    • all actions taken in response to the complaint
    • any events that may become relevant if the matter proceeds to a formal complaint.

Last updated: 01 October 2019