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Standing Committee on Education and Employment
Workplace bullying

EAMES, Ms Katherine, Industrial Services Officer, Queensland and Northern Territory Branch, Independent Education Union of Australia

RICHARDS, Ms Amanda Marion, Assistant General Secretary, Queensland Council of Unions

SHEPPARD, Ms Jan, Senior Industrial Advocate, Australian Services Union

SHEPHERD, Mr Alan (Jamie), Professional Officer, Queensland Nurses Union

TODHUNTER, Dr Elizabeth, Research and Policy Officer, Queensland Nurses Union


CHAIR: I now welcome representatives of the Queensland Council of Unions and affiliated unions to today's hearing. I will go through some formalities. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these are legal proceedings of the parliament and therefore have the same standing as the respective houses. Do you have an opening statement?

Ms Richards : Yes. Thank you for the invitation for us to present today. I would just like to touch on a few points. We have not made a formal submission, but I have had extensive experience in the health and safety area and would just like to impart a bit of that.

Over the last 20 years, we have been working on bullying through Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, and it is still as much an issue as it was 20 years ago. However, the nature of the bullying has changed. When we first started working on it, we were looking at the apprentices who were getting the 'royal flush'. Some of it went to far extremes—for example, they were being set afire or having petrol and things like that poured over them. Now we see a lot more interpersonal type situations in the workplace. It may be horizontal violence, it may be mob violence—and I caught the end of that before—or it might be a power situation.

From the work that we have been doing here, there is a strong opinion that there should be more public information about workplace bullying. We changed the name here in Queensland a few years ago to 'workplace harassment', and people still call it bullying, so that did not really gain anything. It was to take that stigma away from the word 'bullying', but everybody still calls it bullying, so we have kept on with that. There also needs to be an education campaign around a positive message of what appropriate workplace behaviour should be. There need to be some awareness and engagement strategies and resources, particularly in that there will be a code of practice coming out, and it would link in nicely with that as an impetus to build on the work associated with that. One of the things that we are concerned about is that there is no regulation to go with that code of practice to give it a bit more of a legal standing.

We also believe that there should be a multiagency approach, because here in Queensland we have avenues open to us under the criminal legislation—we have stalking laws, we have the laws around assault and we have laws around grievous bodily harm—which will deal with quite significant issues. We looked at it from the approach of Brodie and whether those laws in fact could have been brought into play there. The belief was, on the advice that was given to us, that they would have been appropriate. There is also, under the new health and safety act, the issue resolution process, so that is another avenue that is going to be open to people once they become familiar with that.

The big issue is actually having a single point of entry for people to go to so that they do not have to ring the Anti-Discrimination Commission, the police or Health and Safety and get that run-around, but there is one line. They ring that line and then, from that, it is triaged to the most appropriate avenue for addressing their particular issue. If there were anything to come out of it, that would be a really big help for people because they do not know where to go, and that adds to their anxiety, or they go somewhere and they get the run-around.

The other issue is about building capacity within the private sector, particularly to increase their ability to manage bullying. That may need a segmented approach, depending on the industry or the size of the business. Queensland is 95 per cent small business, so it really has to be addressed in that area. Briefly, that is my submission, and I will now hand over to Ms Sheppard.

Ms Sheppard : Thank you very much. The Australian Services Union has made a submission to the inquiry. What I want to talk about firstly is 'Brodie's law'. The ASU completely support Brodie's law, but we do not think that in itself it is enough. That is for several reasons. One is that there still is a very large stigma in Australia about bullying. It is the Australian way that people do business. You have a go at your mates. It is just like the old pranking of the new apprentices and tarring and feathering them: 'It's fun; it's not harmful; what's the problem?'

Members do not like putting in grievances against co-workers for bullying, so I do not think that they would be willing to lay criminal charges against a co-worker. Then, on top of that, I do not believe that police have the time to investigate these cases except when they cross over into the physical arena, and sometimes not even then. They just do not have the resources. Without education around the effects of bullying and the effect it has on a workplace and on a company's profitability, I do not think anything will change. The other problem is that, once you actually get to criminal charges, it is too late to retrieve the relationship. It has gone too far by then. The other thing is that we believe that, since the inception of Brodie's law a year ago, no-one has actually been charged under the legislation. I might not be right about that, but I am fairly sure.

We have laws that protect workers' rights under the Fair Work Act. There are laws that allow unions good-faith-bargaining rights. We can lodge disputes, and we can protect people from discrimination and sexual harassment, but there are not any laws to stop people from bullying each other. This seems grossly inadequate. We believe that the Fair Work Act could actually define bullying and that it could fit under division 5 with the other protections, where they have the discrimination items now. I do not think this is the only choice that we have, but I think it is a useful one that could be used.

Workplace bullying is like sexual harassment, and it needs to be made illegal. People need to be made accountable for their behaviour. It is my belief that workplace harassment today is the sexual harassment of the eighties. No-one took any notice about sexual harassment either until they were forced by legislation to do so. I know that sexual harassment has not been eradicated, but we have some very large sticks that we use to wave. For a starter, it is illegal. Secondly, vicarious liability has brought many a manager to their knees when they have realised that they could be directly liable if they did nothing. I really have to make it clear here: many of them would have done nothing if that had been the only choice left to them, if they could.

The other part of sexual harassment laws that we often use is the 'reasonable person' test. That, of course, is where you see two people go into a room and one of them comes out crying. You do not necessarily know what has happened, but you know something has happened, and a reasonable person would think, 'There's been something that's caused that person to be upset.'

We have been a part of campaigns on bullying over the years, like the ACTU campaign 'Being bossed around is bad for your health'. We lodge disputes and ask for investigations into workplace behaviour and bullying, and the number is increasing. What in the past might have been a couple every couple of months has now become almost a weekly and in some cases a daily event, where we are getting some form of complaint. In the main, the outcome of these investigations is a finding that there is no case to answer. We believe that, if the reasonable person test were used in some of these investigations, we might get a better outcome or certainly a different one.

In Queensland we have had some success in using the workplace health and safety code of practice on bullying in conjunction with the Work Health and Safety Act. We have also used the inspectorate of Workplace Health and Safety in Queensland to assist in enforcing the code, but not with a huge, great success. But we did have one successful case that was just amazing. The manager of the psychosocial Metro South unit sent an inspector into a workplace and worked with management. We had the employer instigate policies for bullying and harassment. They then trained the staff, and they made sure that everyone knew that they were taking the bullying complaints seriously. But this was only because the inspectorate said to them: 'This is the way that you can mitigate your risk around bullying complaints. If you do this, you've actually got an out.' It was also successful because the union was able to make the complaint to the inspectorate. The member did not have to have his name put forward. He was able to stay anonymous, and that was really important. The interesting part about this and the success for me is that he is actually still working in that workplace now and he has told me it is a completely different workplace to be working in.

In conclusion, I believe we need more protection for workers around bullying and harassment and those protections need to have some interventions as soon as possible. We believe the Fair Work Act could be used to define bullying and workplace harassment and that this tribunal that is used to dealing with workplace grievances could be used as an early intervention process. I do not believe that only using the occupational health and safety legislation is enough. I believe we need to have laws that protect workers, just like they do with sexual harassment. Bullying and harassment needs to be brought from the darkness into the light and it needs to happen now. I want to thank the committee for taking the time to listen to me today.

Ms Eames : I am an industrial services officer and I speak on behalf of the Independent Education Union of Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory branch. We are a union that represents over 17,000 workers in Queensland and the Northern Territory. We are one of five state branches of our federal union, the Independent Education Union of Australia, which represents over 68,000 workers nationally.

Firstly, we wish to make a comment on the weight of this review. In canvassing our members and getting their thoughts, many report very little confidence that this review is anything more than a tick-and-flick exercise. We think it is only fair to warn the government that the outcomes of this review will be examined very closely by the community to determine if they are going to take this issue seriously. Our organisational view is that we must take every opportunity to participate in these processes and ensure the views of our members are heard. In good faith we appear today to offer our thoughts and suggestions for what we hope will be a genuine and meaningful consideration.

At the risk of repeating the issues that have already been raised, we offer the following: firstly, we support the submission lodged and recommendations made by the ACTU and the notion that this issue falls more broadly under the banner of psychological hazards. There are suggestions we wish to make or reiterate that we believe will be of benefit to our membership and consequently the wider community: we would like to see a clear and nationally consistent guideline outlining hazardous behaviour, including the development of specific definitions for workplace bullying and harassment; we see merit in the establishment of an accessible and independent commission or tribunal empowered by law to access, conciliate, investigate and determine matters involving workplace bullying and harassment; we would like to see such a commission or tribunal empowered to issue criminal penalties in substantial cases; we believe a code of acceptable workplace practice and behaviour should be developed and should be recognised nationally as a minimum standard for Australian workplaces; and we believe there needs to be a much stronger emphasis on prevention. To this end, governments should develop strong relationships with and coordinate activities for all regulatory authorities, including the various state based workplace health and safety authorities. These authorities should be sufficiently resourced from both the education and compliance perspectives.

We believe the government must ensure employers are fully aware of their responsibilities in health and safety risks and in psychological hazards. We also believe the government must ensure employers are equipped with the relevant knowledge to meet their workplace health and safety obligations and to be able to address issues arising from unacceptable behaviour. We believe that employers must demonstrate leadership in developing appropriate workplace culture. They must demand a zero tolerance of workplace bullying and harassment. They must ensure all their employees are aware of their own obligations, particularly that employees know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable conduct in the workplace. There should be rewards for employers who demonstrate this and significant penalties for those who do not. Psychological hazards including workplace bullying and harassment impact detrimentally on workplaces socially, financially, culturally and, most importantly for employers, on productivity.

We see significant merit in our government being proactive rather than reactive and in working together to resolve these significant issues. We also see very real need for employers to lead by example. The Independent Education Union understands the significant commitment in money and effort that will be required for the federal government to meet this end. However, we refer to the statistics provided in the ACTU submission regarding the prevalence of workplace bullying, the extent of underreporting of incidents involving unacceptable behaviour, in particular for workers in insecure employment, and the significant costs of such behaviour that is borne by our communities. We are confident that taxpayers would prefer to spend money effectively now and save 100 times that amount in the future to prevent avoidable litigious activity. Put simply, the federal government cannot afford to not address this issue. If the government knows the risk exists, knows the significant harm it causes and knows there are ways to address the risk, they should hold to their obligation to do so. To do otherwise would breach the government's own duty to its people.

Mr Shepherd: The Queensland Nurses Union thanks the committee for providing the opportunity to comment on workplace bullying. We apologise for our assistant secretary, Mr Des Elder, being unable to address the committee today due to illness. The committee has our submission and our statement today will highlight some of the concerns that workplace bullying presents for our members and the profession. The nursing work environment involves complex interpersonal relationships within a social and political context. Nurses balance a multitude of tasks and are accountable to many people. Most agree on the hectic nature of nursing practice and the constraints nurses face every day in delivering safe and quality care.

For over 10 years the QNU have conducted a longitudinal study into the working lives of Queensland nurses. Our research tells us that within the last three months almost half of the nurses have experienced some form of workplace violence, including harassment and bullying. There were significant differences across the various sectors about the perpetrators of bullying. In the private sector, violence and bullying by clients, patients and residents was at its lowest but the highest was by doctors. In the aged care sector, virtually no violence by doctors was reported but violence by other staff was the highest. In the public sector, visitors we are more likely to be the source of violence.

We have drawn together some recent data on the number of calls to our office related to workplace bullying. In the first six months of this year we had around 180 calls across all sectors, slightly down on the previous six months. Our QNU officials deal with matters related to workplace bullying on a daily basis and it is distressing for the members and for the profession in general. We understand the ACTU is calling for stricter penalties and we do not disagree with this approach. However, we all so believe employers have a responsibility to address the factors which can impact workplace bullying, such as excessive workloads and dysfunctional workplace cultures which tolerates such poor behaviour. Nurses work in a busy, stressful environment. When workloads become unmanageable and anxiety levels rise, people will often respond inappropriately. We continue to focus our efforts on seeking proper application of nursing workload management tools that operate across all sectors, on positive workplace cultures that enable individuals to speak out when they are bullied, harassed or threatened and on a public education campaign that reminds everyone of the important work undertaken by our nurses and midwives. In every day in every way nurses and midwives make a difference to the lives of Australians and they deserve respect and recognition for that vital role in caring for all who pass their way.

CHAIR: I have a question for Jan on the successful calling in of the inspector. One of the issues we are hearing is that, if management does not deal with bullying, it becomes a toxic and environment. Also, there is a legislative gap for recourse at the other end and there is a big gap in between about how to keep someone. A lot of people who have been bullied say they just want the bullying to stop. They do not want to sue for compensation; they just want the bullying to stop. What were the key good elements in that situation and how can you see that type of model transferred across workplaces to become an option that could be useful?

Ms Sheppard : I think it was the inspector as well as the manager of the psychosocial unit. He went in and was quite adamant that they had a code of practice and that, if they met their obligations in the code of practice, they would not end up in some kind of punitive thing at the end. I have to say that that was the one success story—

quite frankly, it is probably the only success story. It depends on who the inspector is and how much pressure they apply. They are all so fairly underresourced. For me it highlights that if we need the ability—the way we do with sexual harassment—to train people. The have to have policies. We have policies now in a lot of our workplaces because we put them as part of our enterprise bargaining but, quite frankly, the have no teeth to stop the boss. The can just say, 'Look, we've got it.' I think we have to emulate sexual harassment. That is where those things have been successful.

CHAIR: We will definitely take that on board. We do not really have a model of good early intervention. Obviously, one of the key things inspectors use is the code of practice. Do you know whether he or she had any training when it came to bullying and harassment?

Ms Sheppard : The inspector was a trained psychologist because he was part of the psychosocial unit, so he did have that training.

CHAIR: Something we had heard in other states is that inspectors do not have the skills. I am interested to tease out the difference. We have heard that if inspectors had had some of the skills in terms of psychosocial hazards, they might have been better able to deal with it. So it is perhaps having the skills. Was management open to this?

Ms Sheppard : I think because he had the skills he also did not really give them a lot of choice. That was the other bit. You can be fined by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland if you are not doing these things. He did in some ways use a big stick approach. The other thing was that he was willing to go in without a person's name. He recognised that the union had a role because we were using it as part of our authorised representative permits under the act. He recognised very clearly what we had seen and said we were right, that if we used its name he would lose his job.

CHAIR: Is that one of the benefits worth pursuing under occupational health and safety other than perhaps in the first instance fair work or other instruments that require a person to stand up? One of the issues we have heard about with bullying and harassment is that often, if it comes under a grievance procedure, even bystanders may go to management and say, 'I'm seeing this,' and management's response is, 'Unless the person's coming forward, I'm not going to do anything about it.' Is that one of the benefits of using occupational health and safety, that it does not require an individual to stand up and make the grievance, that it can be seen as a workplace issue which anyone can report?

Ms Sheppard : Yes and that is why we have said we do not believe it is a one-size-fits-all for us. The other issue is that it is who you are going to. It is about their training and whether or not they recognise the union has a role as well. That is the other big issue in it. You are right. We have a lot of very small workplaces. This was actually a small workplace where this occurred. Another issue for us is that we have a lot of members in insecure work areas. We see it regularly. The minute someone raises an issue about anything, all of a sudden their hours are cut because they are casuals. Eventually they lose their jobs.

CHAIR: Amanda, I think you mentioned the ability to access the conciliation process.

Ms Richards : No, that was one of the others.

CHAIR: We have been hearing a lot about, when management do not respond appropriately, the need for somebody independent. If the inspector is well trained, they play that role. There are other ways to intervene early so that the person can stay at the workplace and for the bullying to stop. Do you see a role for some sort of conciliation process to be available to them?

Ms Sheppard : Is that what we were talking about with fair work?


Ms Sheppard : Yes, we think that could be an area where people could do it because earlier intervention is really important. If you could go to fair work without having to name somebody—you can bring sexual harassment complaints without actually naming the person and say, 'This is the environment.' It would need to be put in those areas. Conciliation and early intervention is the only way we can keep people in their jobs and you are right, they just want it to stop because they liked the job or they need their job.

CHAIR: You talked about putting it in with the other protections. We have heard some discussion about the general provision for adverse action to cover it but we have heard this morning that it does not quite fit. Are any of you aware of any cases—we asked this this morning—where that protection has been used for bullying and harassment but there has not yet been an outcome? Are you aware of any successful outcome used under fair work to address bullying and harassment?

Ms Sheppard : We have not used it.

Ms Eames : We have one pending. We can advise you on the outcome.

CHAIR: That would be really great. I think someone mentioned a case which could have come under criminal law. Are you aware of any successful prosecutions of bullying and harassment in Queensland that did not have a physical element to it, under occupational health and safety law?

Ms Richards : There was a task force in Queensland at the end of last year which looked into bullying. That is when we discovered that the stalking laws could be used but at that stage nobody had gone into the criminal area. They had mainly stayed in the area of health and safety because that was where the codes, the obligations of the employer and all that sort of stuff had been boxed in until that date.

CHAIR: Do you have any comments on the new national code of conduct being developed? Have you been involved? There is some discussion at the moment of whether it will provide guidance and be a voluntary code. Do you have any comments about that?

Ms Richards : We have been involved in the development of the code of practice on bullying and we have consulted with the affiliates on that. It fairly well reflects what we have had here in Queensland for quite some time and at the end of the day it depends on the resources that are available to implement that code of practice because a code of practice has legal standing under health and safety legislation in that you must meet it or something of its equivalent. There is no regulation in place to reinforce that and that is my concern. You can have all the pieces of paper you like but, unless there is something other than just using the obligations, people will not take it seriously. It needs to be put in a box and to say, 'If this is bullying, here's a regulation, here's a code of practice,' and on top of that you also have duties of care under the act but the regulation requires you to do something.

So that is what we really need, but on top of that we need people to actually understand the definition of what bullying is, because that is one of the big issues: people do not understand it. We need to be able to educate people about how to use it—both the employer and the employee side of things—and then we need to have people who can follow through. We have had one good example that Ms Sheppard presented, but there are many, many more who have rung up and said, 'You must lodge a grievance before we'll take this any further.' There are lots of issues. In a past life I was with the Nurses Union as well, and we got to the stage where we would get them to lodge an incident report around the inappropriate behaviour but then the grievance was around management's failure to investigate the incident. So it takes it away from myself lodging a grievance against one of my coworkers, which automatically splits the workforce.

There is still a lot of work to be done. As my colleague from Q has indicated, it actually requires monetary resources. It is becoming so endemic within the workplaces at the moment, with people's jobs being threatened on a daily basis—'Pull your head in or you'll be the next one to go'—that I think we are going to see some quite ill people come out of the processes not just within the public sector but in the private sector as well, because we have the downstream changes coming through.

Mrs ANDREWS: We have heard quite a number of submissions about a single point of contact. I think it was you, Ms Sheppard, that referred to it. I have written the note as a single entry point, which I do not think was quite your—

Ms Richards : Yes, that was me.

Mrs ANDREWS: Okay. Could you—or anyone—perhaps expand on that and how you would see that working. Who would engage in that single entry point? Would it be for the employees and for the employer as well? What sort of information would people need that single entry point to provide?

Ms Richards : It would be for everybody in the first instance, both employer and employee. It could be anything from advice—'This is what bullying is,' or, 'These are different options for you to deal with it'—through to, 'What you're saying falls within the definition. The behaviours that are being exhibited fall within the definition of bullying, and you are having a detriment. Therefore you could make a complaint through this particular agency or whatever. We can refer you straight through to that agency.' So they do not have to keep ringing around. There is just somebody who triages—which I know is a nursing term. They can assist them, but then they can forward them on to the relevant party—just forwarding on from a phone call. They do not have to hang up, pick up the phone, try to ring somebody again and try to find a number or ring up and find it is engaged or something like that.

Mrs ANDREWS: Okay. We have also heard about the gap that exists between the issues at the workplace and then the litigation. I guess it links into what you are saying about the early intervention and the need to get some support as soon as possible in the processes as well. Do you believe that, with a service such as the one point of contact to go to initially, there would be a risk that the response to individuals, whoever they may be and at whatever level they are, would be, 'These are your options for redress,' rather than how to resolve the issue at the workplace?

Ms Richards : Maybe I will start. When people ring up about how they believe they may be being bullied in the workplace, they normally want to know that, yes, what they are experiencing is bullying, but then they want to know what they can do or what can be done to assist them to resolve that issue.

My experience—I have worked in the area of health and safety for over 20 years—is that nobody has rung up and said, 'I want to see that person because they are bullying me.' They are looking, as the chair said, for the matter to stop and go away. That is what they want. They want the options open to them. They want to talk through those options about how they can do that in their workplace. Sometimes it is about what other, third parties can be used to assist with that so that they can remain anonymous and do general training in the workplace as opposed to an investigation of a particular incident.

Mrs ANDREWS: So the third parties that may exist at this point would be to assist the individuals. So, where would the referral go at this point in time?

Ms Richards : In Queensland currently it would go to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland in the first instance. Each region has a psychosocial unit attached to it.

Mrs D'ATH: Just following on from that point, are you suggesting that any advisory or referral body or one-stop shop should be reaching some conclusion at that initial point? I have some nervousness about that.

Ms Richards : No.

Mrs D'ATH: I know people are ringing up saying that they want some sort of confirmation that, yes, they are being bullied, and what they can do about it. I thought it would be more in terms of, 'It could be bullying; this is what is available. I can put you through or refer you on,' as opposed to drawing any conclusions, initially, on whether someone is or is not being bullied.

Ms Richards : I think I agree with what you are saying. It should be, 'These are your options,' and things like that. But there will be some cases that come through that are at the severe end of bullying, coming on criminal things, that actually need further work. Obviously, we have two minutes to sit here and say, 'We think this is a good idea,' but the complexities of putting in that place will take a significant amount of time to get right, including having the charts of when you refer on and when you do not refer on, and things like that.

But I have to give Queensland Health its due. A few years ago they did set up a bullying unit. They worked through that and they worked through investigations and things like. That actually worked quite well for a period of time, while it was being resourced properly. So there is an example of something like that. That is one employer and one area. But Queensland Health is a very large employer; it is right across the state. It was opened up. They set down processes and things like that.

It is not going to be easy but there is no easy solution to this; otherwise we would have found it 20 years ago.

CHAIR: Can I ask about that. Does Queensland Health fund NGOs to do things as well? Was that process available to NGOs that might be outsourced by Queensland Health?

Ms Richards : At that stage they did not.

CHAIR: That is relevant to something we heard in the Northern Territory. Sorry about that.

Mrs D'ATH: I think the point I have heard from both Ms Sheppard and you, Ms Richards, is that whatever body the issue is referred off to, it has to be adequately resourced. If it is going to be the workplace health and safety inspectorate, it is about making sure the inspectors have adequate skills to come in and deal with the matter.

I know that you have been asked a number of questions, Ms Sheppard about the successful case. I just want to drill down a little bit more. You have talked about the inspector coming in, using the big stick and basically saying, 'You've got a duty of care because you have a code of conduct here; apply it,' but I need to know: how did it work? You have said the individual was not identified. Was the alleged perpetrator identified? In simply going in and saying, 'You've got a code of conduct; apply it,' how is it applied? How did they change the behaviour in a workplace? Did they go in and say to all of their employees, 'This is what is expected of you and if you do not behave that way these are the consequences,' or did they engage training to educate them? How was it that simply referring to the code of conduct fixed the problem?

Ms Sheppard : It was not actually the code of conduct; it was a code of practice. What occurred was the inspector went in and said: 'We have been advised that there are some bullying behaviours going on in this workplace. Under section 27 of the Work Health and Safety Act, you have to do a risk assessment to show that you do not have bullying. Here is our code of practice. For you to be able to show that you do not have bullying in the workplace, you need to do several things. First, you need to have a policy that says you do not accept workplace bullying or harassment in the workplace. The second thing is you need to train all of your staff in what workplace bullying and harassment is and that you have zero tolerance to it. You have to put them through this training every 12 months.' It is almost a mirror of what you have to do with sexual harassment.

So they went and got themselves a policy. They then got a trainer in. They started training all of their staff and had ongoing training. They had every staff member sign a document to say, 'I understand that we do not accept workplace bullying and harassment in this workplace. We want it to be a workplace where everyone is able to have their say and feel safe.' It was not a quick fix, either. It was a fix that took several months to do. But the member felt from the minute that inspector walked in that there was a change to the workplace. I did not know exactly when the inspector was going in, so I had not rung him. I got a call from the member, who said, 'Oh my God.' I asked, 'What?' and I thought, 'Don't tell me it's gotten worse.' He said, 'The inspector came in yesterday and everybody has just said, "Oh, maybe I'm doing that."'

It is a bit like sexual harassment: sometimes people behave in a manner and they do not realise the effect it can have on other people. I agree completely with the QNU. You have workload issues, you are being pushed to meet deadlines and people start snapping at each other. They all stopped and said, 'I wonder if I am doing that.' They were stopping and thinking. It was not a quick fix—it took time—but I have to say the change was incredible.

Mrs D'ATH: I know we are running over time, but I have two points I would like addressed. Try to be as succinct as possible so that we can get through these two. The ASU's submission, on page 7, has an example of a clause on workplace harassment used in enterprise bargaining agreements, and I have certainly seen that wording before. I am interested in knowing who deals with the disputes when you have a clause like that. If someone says, 'I have looked at that definition and I believe I am being harassed in the workplace,' is there another provision within the enterprise bargaining agreement that says how the dispute should be resolved? Is it resolved internally or by an independent body, whether it is the Industrial Relations Commission or inspectors?

Ms Sheppard : We use the grievance procedure. So we enforce the conditions of the EBA. You can then go to the Industrial Relations Commission about enforcing the clause of the agreement.

Mrs D'ATH: Do you find that using the normal grievance procedure works because you have a provision here that better identifies workplace harassment, or not?

Ms Sheppard : It works because the organisation is more aware that they have to fix it or we will take it to the commission. It is about the culture. This was about starting to change the culture in the workplace.

Mrs D'ATH: I understand the importance of ensuring managers can manage and that they have the right to do performance appraisals and reviews and to raise performance matters without it becoming an issue of, 'I'm being bullied because someone is criticising my work performance.' Do you believe the 'reasonable person' test deals with that?

Ms Sheppard : Yes, I really do. When you are doing a performance management process, a reasonable person would expect that your employer would be allowed to say to you, 'You have been late 10 times in the last month. We need to have a look at why that is.' It is about how you have those conversations. It is not, 'If you friggin come into work late one more time, I am going to sack you.' That is not the way to do it. It is about how do we actually get to that.

Mrs D'ATH: Looking at any national code, do you think it is important for the reasonable person test to be in there?

Ms Sheppard : Absolutely.

Mrs D'ATH: In submissions I have seen during this inquiry and in other matters, there is that third party element. Organisations have talked about third party intimidation, offensive behaviour and threatening behaviour towards nurses and teachers in doing their everyday job by patients, by students, by parents. In dealing with workplace bullying, do you believe the third party element should be encompassed in that or should that be something that is dealt with elsewhere in workplace health and safety and in other laws? We have heard definitions of bullying and harassment. Take call centres, for example, where someone is constantly dealing with a barrage of very upset people. That is a very stressful work environment but is it bullying? Should we be distinguishing between the two? It does not mean one is more important than the other but that there needs to be different ways of dealing with those two areas. I am interested in hearing from the education union and from the nurses on that.

Dr Todhunter : We seem to be focussing very much on the effects of bullying but I think we also have to look at the causes. We have raised this in our submission and it goes to the heart of some of the issues we have as well.

Mr Shepherd : Our key focus needs to be on the education component around bullying and harassment, especially educating people around the awareness of what constitutes bullying and harassment and encouraging self reflection that can occur when an inspector comes in but should be occurring before then. One of my previous roles was as a staff educator educating about bullying and harassment. When you educate staff about it, which is a continuous process, you raise the awareness and you raise the level of self reflection on how your behaviour impacts on other people. That can make a big difference on a worksite. It is about addressing those culture issues to try and prevent bullying and harassment from occurring in the first place.

Ms Eames : From an education perspective, dealing with a third party in bullying and harassment could be problematic. Maybe it comes under workplace health and safety for teachers because they deal with students and parents. I do not think we would have much success in educating that component.

CHAIR: Are you saying it is still a psychosocial issue?

Ms Eames : Yes, but it may be separate.

CHAIR: Thank you for appearing here today. If there is any additional information that might be of use to the committee or if you get an outcome from the case you indicated, we would appreciate that being forwarded on to the committee.

Proceedings suspended from 12:29 to 13:10