Harassment on rise in federal bureaucracy

Laws based on Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' recommendations have passed the Senate.

Laws based on Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' recommendations have passed the Senate. Photo: AAP

Harassment and bullying are on the rise in the public service.

The number of recorded complaints made by federal public servants has increased in recent years, from 422 in 2018/19 to 588 in 2020/21.

And the number of recorded complaints of sexual harassment more than doubled from 32 in 2019/20 to 78 in 2020/21.

“There is no doubt that more work is also required to improve the reporting culture around harassment and bullying,” the latest State of the Service report says.

The report, tabled in federal parliament on Monday, says a refreshed gender equality strategy is set to be released soon, strengthening ways to prevent and respond to gender-based harassment and discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and bullying.

Unacceptable behaviours, such as harassment or bullying, were not tolerated in the Australian Public Service and contrary to its values and code of conduct, the report noted.

“The APS monitors and actively works to eliminate incidents of these negative acts.”

The proportion of people experiencing harassment or bullying had fallen from 17.2 per cent in 2015 to 11.7 per cent in 2021.

But the most common types of harassment or bullying have remained the same: verbal abuse, interference with work tasks such as undermining or sabotage, and inappropriate and unfair application of workplace policies or rules.

Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen public service workforce numbers rise.

The report showed there were 153,945 employees in the Australian Public Service – up 2.3 per cent on June 2020.

Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott described it as a “modest” rise.

“This was a rise in both ongoing and non-ongoing roles to assist the government’s recovery plan, providing essential services and supporting the roll-out of the 2021 Census,” he said.

Mr Woolcott said while there were more women, Indigenous people and non-English speakers joining the public service, there was more work to be done on increasing the representation of people with disabilities.

“People from non-English speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and public servants with a disability also still remain underrepresented at the most senior levels.

“For the first time women in the APS have reached, and in most cases exceeded, parity with men at every level up to and including the collective (executive) cohort.”

Women comprise 60.2 per cent of the public service.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.