Guide issued to PS
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued news guidelines to help Agencies manage situations in which employees may be subject to cyber-bullying either by Agency clients or the public.
on online abuse
The APSC said cyber-bullying was an emerging issue for Australian Public Service (APS) employees, as clients and other members of the community criticised Agencies online because they were dissatisfied with services or the administration of Government policy.
“Sometimes, however, the online comments they make are directed personally at APS employees, and can include comments that are distressing,” The APSC said.
Cyber-bullying was potentially a work health and safety, security, and reputational issue for APS agencies
The Commission said the guidelines did not deal with cyber-bullying by other APS employees.
“Harassment, including online, by APS employees should be managed in accordance with an Agency’s policies on bullying and harassment, or other unacceptable workplace behaviour,” it said.
“While the incidence of cyber-bullying is small, it can have a significant impact on the people affected by it. It is therefore important that Agencies consider the need for a strategy to minimise the risk of cyber-bullying of their employees and respond effectively to incidents as they arise.”
The Commission said the guidelines would help Agencies to develop strategies to manage the risk of cyber-bullying, consistent with the APS Values and Employment Principles, and manage instances of cyber-bullying, including providing appropriate support to employees who became the targets of online abuse.
It said Agencies might need to consider a less personalised approach to service delivery in which APS employees were not identified by name, and where emails to Agency clients came from a generic mailbox rather than a personal address.
The Commission said where a comment had been made online that was offensive or threatening, or which contained personal information about an employee, it might be appropriate to notify the internet service provider or the host of the website or the social media platform on which the comment had been posted.
In extreme cases legal remedies might be available depending on the circumstances, and particularly in situations of apprehended or actual violence, threats, intimidation, stalking, or other unlawful conduct by the public.
“In many cases it will be appropriate to pursue other mechanisms first but, should these fail, legal remedies may be available under Commonwealth statutes, including the:
Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) or Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
Mechanisms might also be available to Agencies and employees under State criminal laws, including laws relating to stalking, or under other laws relating to protection or apprehended violence orders, privacy, and discrimination.
Agencies could assist employees to obtain a restraining order, institute other legal proceedings, and defend actions brought against them for reasons related to their employment, where the employee has acted reasonably and responsibly.
Further information at this PS News link.
Edition 385, 29 October 2013