After being constantly belittled and yelled at in her office, Lynne Magee had nowhere to turn, because she was working for the authority in charge of regulating workplace bullying. The big issue was (indeed) who regulates the regulator,” she said. “But that question was never answered. You can’t report WorkCover to WorkCover.
Bullied worker had nowhere to turn but Labor has plan to change that
Anna Patty | Mach 24 2015 |
After being constantly belittled and yelled at in her office, Lynne Magee had nowhere to turn, because she was working for the authority in charge of regulating workplace bullying.
“The big issue was who regulates the regulator,” she said. “But that question was never answered. You can’t report WorkCover to WorkCover.”
I left the office one day because I wanted to feel safe. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and a panic disorder. I was horrified.
Labor’s spokesman for industrial relations, Adam Searle, said laws would be introduced to make workplace bullying illegal. There are currently no legal protections against bullying for public sector and local government employees.
Federal laws provide some protection to workers in the private sector, who can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop bullying, but in the year since that right was introduced, only one order has been issued.
Under Labor’s proposals, bullying complaints within WorkCover would be investigated independently. The Industrial Relations Commission would be in charge of ruling on workplace bullying complaints.
A charter of legally enforceable rights for injured workers is also proposed, allowing anyone harassed by an employer to apply for orders to make them stop. Financial penalties would also be available.
Labor would also return work health and safety matters to the Industrial Court. They are now dealt with in the District Court.
The Industrial Commission would also be able to force employers to comply with rehabilitation and return-to-work plans for injured workers.
Ms Magee, 47, who is now happily employed with another organisation, said she reached the point where she was so on edge she could not even concentrate on writing her name.
Having worked for 20 years in policing, Ms Magee said she was no push-over and, looking back, she thinks “how did I ever get to that point?”
“I left the office one day because I wanted to feel safe. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and a panic disorder. I was horrified,” she said.
“Thankfully, I was looked after well and I had a good doctor, a good psychologist, good friends and family around me.”
Ms Magee said the workplace culture at WorkCover was “toxic”.
“It was an ingrained culture where bullying was accepted,” she said. “I now work in a workplace where there is no tolerance for bullying.”
Mr Searle said everyone should be safe at work, but the bullying problem was serious and widespread.
He said between 15 and 33 per cent of the workforce had experienced workplace bullying.
“This is an epidemic that must be addressed,” Mr Searle said, adding that it costs the NSW economy between $2 billion and $12 billion a year in lost productivity.
WorkCover NSW chief executive Vivek Bhatia said a parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover found in June 2013 that it had a significant problem with bullying.
“Both I and the executive unequivocally accepted this finding,” he said.
“I take a firm view that we have to accept what needs to change, and then draw a line in the sand to move forward.
“We continue to work, in consultation with all our staff and the Public Service Association, to change this and create a safe and supportive culture, which includes a zero tolerance to bullying and harassment behaviours.
“While this encouraging and significant progress has been made to date, my team and I accept that there is more to be done and we are working hard to foster sustainable cultural change.”