Each parliamentarians is responsible for discharging the Commonwealth's duties as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in relation to:
- activities related to the representation of the parliamentarian's electorate
- work undertaken at the parliamentarian's electorate office(s)
- work undertaken by workers for the parliamentarian at Parliament House and at other locations.
Finance must also carry out the Commonwealth's PCBU duties in relation to some aspects of work undertaken by MOP(S) Act employees. However, as there are many aspects of a parliamentarian's undertaking that Finance has limited capacity to influence or control, the parliamentarian will have primary responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) for those matters.
Finance and parliamentarians are required to, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, cooperate and coordinate with each other to the extent that they have duties in relation to the same matters. Finance has put in place systems designed to assist parliamentarians to discharge their duties under the WHS Act.
What are the Commonwealth’s duties as a PCBU?
The primary duty of care of the Commonwealth as a PCBU is set out in section 19 of the WHS Act.
To discharge the Commonwealth’s PCBU duties, a parliamentarian must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of:
- workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by the parliamentarian
- workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the parliamentarian
- while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking.
Worker is defined broadly under the WHS Act as anyone who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU. This may include parliamentarians themselves, MOP(S) Act employees, volunteers, and contractors.
A PCBU must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking. In the context of a parliamentarian's work, other persons might include, but not be limited to: constituents, journalists at a press conference, family members, party officials, demonstrators, or persons attending a public gathering organised by the parliamentarian’s office.
What do parliamentarians need to do to discharge the Commonwealth’s duties as a PCBU?
Each parliamentarian should establish, as part of their office management practices, a due diligence framework to meet their safety obligations, taking the following matters into consideration:
- ensure that WHS roles within the office are filled – these roles assist parliamentarian, Act employees and Finance to meet their duties under the WHS Act
- ensure that all staff have attended relevant training and education regarding WHS duties, including bullying and harassment
- a parliamentarian has a duty to consult with all workers within their workplace, including volunteers, on WHS matters
- volunteers and contractors are owed the same duty as MOP(S) Act employees, or any other worker
- a parliamentarian retains overall responsibility to ensure 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
- 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 the 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.
- multiple PCBUs in the same workplace must consult with each other and workers to determine who has control over activities being undertaken and to what extent. In order to discharge the Commonwealth’s PCBU duty, parliamentarians must consult with other stakeholders in the workplace.
MaPS is available to advise and assist, should a parliamentarian have any queries on what they need to do to discharge their WHS duties.