PS upheavals may spark 'psych' claimsAPS Agencies and managers are in danger of incurring workplace "psychosocial" injuries claims because of the current upheavals associated with the change of Government, Comcare has warned.
The Agency said that in these difficult times many public sector managers were not aware of how far their legal responsibilities ran and rank-and-file Public Servants could be fined $300,000 in the most serious cases of bullying.
Regional Director of Comcare, Mina Podbereski said it was simply a matter of time before there was a prosecution and a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars under the tough health and safety laws.
Speaking at a seminar on workplace bullying in Canberra, Ms Podbereski said managers could be fined individually $100,000 for a Category One offence and up to $600,000 for the most serious Category Three breach of the Work Health and Safety Act, which might cover the suicide of a bullied worker.
She said fines would have to be paid by the individual, not their employer.
"The Work Health and Safety Act was developed to ensure that you couldn't buy a cop-out, that you couldn't insure against this," Ms Podbereski said.
She said Comcare was facing a rising tide of claims of psychiatric injuries, many of them related to allegations of bullying and harassment, with "psych claims'' four times more common in the public sector than in private enterprise and up by 30 per cent in the past three years.
Public Service unions have warned that the public sector cuts of the previous Labor and recently elected Coalition Governments have driven up the rate of psychosocial injury claims, and Ms Podbereski confirmed that changing times brought a higher danger of health and safety breaches.
"We might get accidental non-compliance, with major stress, organisations changing, downsizing and people trying to squeeze workers and to get more work out of them," she said.
Asked if Comcare had prosecuted anyone under the tough health and safety laws, Ms Podbereski replied: "Not yet, but it will happen."
“We're working on a case now that could end up that way."
Edition 381, 1 October 2013 2013