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Bullying complaints made to WorkSafe Victoria have more than doubled

Bullying complaints made to WorkSafe Victoria have more than doubled

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that the number of complaints to WorkSafe from Victorian workers, alleging they have been bullied at work, have more than doubled to 6000 in the past year.
In summary, the report found that:

  • No action was taken on the vast majority of complaints, as many complaints fell short of what constitutes workplace bullying under the law.
  • It is believed the increase in complaints is largely attributable to greater awareness about bullying, particularly after the case of Brodie Panlock, a 19 year old waitress, who committed suicide in 2006 after being bullied by four colleagues at a Hawthorn café, came to light.
  • The most significant increase in bullying complaints came after Ms Panlock’s former colleagues and the owner of the café were found guilty and fined in February last year. A month earlier, Worksafe received 150 complaints. In February 2010 the number of complaints rose to 550 calls and in March 2010 it was 750.
  • Of the 6000 bullying complaints made to WorkSafe, only 10 per cent were referred to the bullying response unit. Of those referrals, one in 10 resulted in an inspector visiting a workplace to conduct further inquiries.
  • Many of the complaints have been referred to other organisations such as Fair Work Australia, which deals with industrial disputes, unfair dismissal and employment conditions, and the Australian Human Rights Commission, which deals with equal opportunity and discrimination.
  • Ian Forsyth, WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, commented on the disparity between the number of complaints made and those actually investigated:

”We’re certainly not saying that these people aren’t suffering from some form of ill treatment or some form of injustice or that they’re not genuinely feeling that they’ve been disadvantaged or put under pressure. But in the vast majority of incidents these types of behaviours which they might describe as bullying are not going to meet the criteria for us to investigate or prosecute.”

WorkSafe recommends that if you are concerned about mistreatment or bullying at work you should immediately raise the issue with the appropriate person in your workplace.

Mind you, WorkSafe has it’s own (alledged) problem with internal bullying…

Making a complaint about workcover

Following yesterday’s rather popular post about “making (non)sense about IMEs” I have decided to lodge (yet again) a formal complaint with WorkSafe about the inappropriate behaviour of my case manager from hell. Whilst looking for the complaint form, I thought I’d just share some things about making a complaint about workcover…

What is a workcover complaint?

A complaint is any written or verbal expression of dissatisfaction with:

  • the service provided by, or
  • the conduct of the Victorian WorkCover Authority including WorkSafe Victoria, its WorkCover Agents, WorkCover Assist, self insurers, Independent Medical Examiners, Occupational Rehabilitation Providers, Legal Panel, Private Investigators or WorkSafe Authorised Certificate Assessors
  • Complaints about licensed or registered service providers are not included in the scope of this definition
  • A complaint also includes dissatisfaction with any aspect of the WorkCover legislation or scheme.

A complaint can include the following:

  • any claims issues (for example poor decision making, poor explanations, lack of/incorrect information provided, poor/inappropriate communication)
  • the performance of WorkSafe functions, or the way these functions and decisions are communicated
  • premium issues/objections
  • conciliation non-compliance
  • matters of conduct about an employee of the VWA or WorkCover Agent(s), including inappropriate behaviour
  • non-compliance or delays in complying with requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 or the Accident Compensation Act 1985
  • inadequate or inappropriate handling of personal information, including potential breaches of the Privacy Act 1988  or other relevant acts
  • complaints about employers not meeting their obligations as specified in the Accident Compensation Act 1985, and associated VWA and Workcover Agent enforcement requirements

Who can make a complaint about workcover?

  • an injured worker, their representative or family member
  • Workers
  • Health and Safety Representatives or members of the public
  • an employer
  • a union official
  • healthcare professional treating an injured worker
  • Members of Parliament
  • Ombudsman
  • the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service

How can you make a complaint?

Complaints may be received in many ways: verbally (face-to-face or over the phone); written ;email (via the web or email addresses).

Download the WorkSafe complaint form

Read about the complaints process

Complaint about workcover staff (i.e. your case manager)

You need to lodge your complaint directly with us either by

If you need assistance to lodge a complaint, contact our WorkSafe’s Advisory Service.

How will the complaint be investigated?

Complaints will be investigated in accordance with the following principles:

•  All complaints will be investigated by an appropriately authorised person.

•  The investigation of complaints must be fair to both the complainant and the organisation or individual being complained about.

•  With the exception of complaints about WorkSafe Inspector Conduct which are referred to the WorkSafe Compliance Co-ordination Branch (CCB), complaints about the conduct of a VWA staff member are to be referred directly to the respective staff member’s Manager for investigation. Only the Manager will collect information about the nature of the complaint.

•  Any Whistleblower complaints will be investigated in accordance with the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001. These complaints are referred directly to the Protected Disclosure Officer.

•  Complaints will be dealt with quickly and complainants will be treated courteously.

•  The complaints handling process will have the capacity to determine and implement remedies.

•  Where matters cannot be satisfactorily resolved by the complaints process the complainant will be advised of the independent external avenues to resolve the complaint.

Referral of complaints

•  Complaints may be referred to another area, in accordance with the following:Staff in the WorkCover Advisory Service will endeavour to resolve the complaint personally unless the complaint relates to Premium, an Independent Medical Examiner or the conduct of a VWA staff member. If this is not possible, they may refer it to their direct manager.

•  Any claims-related complaint that requires detailed investigation is to be referred to the Complaints Resolution Branch.

•  The Complaints Resolution Branch is responsible for investigating claims related complaints and any consultation with business subject experts.

•  Any Workplace Injury Insurance related complaint or objection is to be referred to the Premium Division for investigation.

•  Complaints about WorkSafe matters will either be handled by the WorkCover Advisory Service (OH&S Team) or referred to the relevant manager or the WorkSafe CCB.

VWA’s agents are expected to resolve complaints directly within their own complaints procedures rather than escalating to the VWA.

If the complaint needs to be referred to another organisation for investigation, the VWA will notify the complainant.