Allegations of bullying behaviour in the workplace were a significant factor in the Merit Protection Commissioner’s Code of Conduct review caseload in 2012–13, the annual report of the Commissioner has stated.
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The Commission’s role is to help Agencies meet the requirements of the APS Values and Conduct by providing independent external review of actions affecting individual APS employees.
The report found that there were 14 cases where bullying was a significant reason for the Agency investigating the employee for suspected misconduct.
Of these, there were three cases where employees were investigated for behaviour towards their supervisors, four cases where supervisors were investigated for bullying behaviour towards subordinates, six cases of behaviour towards colleagues and one case of an APS employee’s behaviour towards clients in a regulatory role.
The report stated that one case of sexual harassment of a colleague was reviewed. One case of a suspension from duty during a Code of Conduct investigation for sexual harassment of a client was also reviewed.
In all the Merit Protection Commissioner received 192 applications for review and carried over 60 cases from the previous year. This represented a 26 per cent increase in applications compared with 2011–12.
The report found there were increases in the proportion of performance management cases reviewed (26 per cent compared with 14 per cent in 2011–12), disputes around duties (nine per cent compared with four per cent in 2011–12), and conditions of employment (20 per cent compared with 16 per cent in 2011–12). All other categories showed a decrease.
The report stated that the area where there had been most change was in applications for secondary review, with a 55 per cent increase.
It said the subject matter of these reviews covered a range of issues. However, 43 per cent of finalised secondary reviews concerned decisions about aspects of performance management.
“It is unclear what is driving the trend in these applications, but it may reflect an increased focus by Agencies on actively managing unsatisfactory performance,” the report stated.
Acting Merit Protection Commissioner, Karin Fisher said she continued to be concerned at the number of primary and secondary review cases where the recommendation of her delegate was that part, or all, of a decision should be set aside because Agency decision-makers have failed to allow the employee an opportunity to be heard or to adhere to Agency procedures.
Edition 386, 5 November 2013