Workplace Bullying Agency Beset By Workplace Bullying


It’s the organisation you’re supposed to contact if you experience bullying in the workplace, but a NSW Government inquiry has found that a “culture of bullying” exists in state agency WorkCover, and that managerial staff failed to understand the depth of the problem, or act appropriately in response.

A damning report delivered by a Legislative Council Committee has warned that aside from the damages suffered by WorkCover staff, the culture of the agency may be preventing it from adequately dealing with complaints made by members of the public.

“Just as WorkCover has not grasped the seriousness of bullying within its own organisation, it appears not to have recognised the seriousness of this issue in other workplaces, nor to have taken a sufficiently active role in promoting compliance,” the reported noted.

Greens MP David Shoebridge has today reiterated the concerns expressed in the report.

“There is one pretty obvious reason why this matter needs to be high on the public’s agenda. WorkCover is responsible for addressing bullying in other workplaces. It clearly can’t do that job when it is itself has a toxic internal bullying culture,” Shoebridge writes in New Matilda

The report made 13 recommendations, calling for an apology to be issued to employees for past wrongs and for outlets to be established to allow staff to make complaints of bullying to an independent arbiter.

Previously, they had been required to lodge complaints of bullying with their own employer.

In the process of the inquiry the Committee received 98 submissions, many of which were from WorkCover employees past and present, detailing their experiences with bullying in the workplace. 

“A former WorkCover employee identified a number of ‘strategies’ used to bully her including ‘performance management’, giving her a larger and more complex workload compared with other colleagues, assigning work below her skill level, being told she is not working well as a team member, and being directed to stop work on certain tasks then taken over by someone else, and being given no credit for the work,” the report stated.

One submission from a WorkCover employee, who had been pregnant at the time of her bullying, claimed that poor management and mistreatment of staff resulted in her suffering physical and psychological distress.

“The impact was that I did not want to come to work. It affected my health, causing poor sleep, an inability to relax, severe migraines and stomach complaints.

“I took leave from the workplace as it became an uncomfortable place to be,” her submission stated.

The Public Service Association (PSA) told the inquiry that delegates were harassed in the workplace and faced aggression and threats of reprisals. The report itself noted: “One particular aspect of poor management underscored by a number of participants was 

The report also cited one submission which claimed staff had used the term ‘bullying’ in an overly liberal way, been too prone to complaining, and that only the unions were responsible for bullying in the agency.

The report, which was sparked by an Industrial Relations Committee ruling that WorkCover employee Wayne Butler had been unfairly dismissed and subjected to a “witch hunt”, criticised WorkCover for failing to provide information requested by the Committee throughout the inquiry. It recommended a specific apology be made to Mr Butler.

Concerns about WorkCover have been acknowledged for some time, with the PSA reporting it had been aware of the issues since 2004.

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.