Bullying and harassment

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Information about bullying and harassment reviews

Who is eligible to apply for review of a bullying and harassment complaint?

All current non-SES employees of the Australian Public Service (APS) are eligible to apply.

Employees of the Parliamentary Service have a similar review scheme.

You can apply if you were:

  • the person who was bullied and harassed and want review of the handling of your complaint, or
  • accused of bullying and harassment and you are dissatisfied with the handling of the allegations about your behaviour.

Note: some bullying and harassment allegations are investigated as suspected breaches of the Code of Conduct.

Are there timeframes?

Yes, there are important timeframes.

You have 120 days to apply for review with your agency.

'When' the 120 days starts depends on what you want reviewed. The 120 days may be calculated from the date:

  • of the bullying and harassment
  • you complained about the bullying and harassment
  • you were advised of the outcome of your or another's bullying and harassment complaint.

Your agency's review of these matters is called an agency primary review.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of this primary review, you may apply to the Merit Protection Commissioner for review.

When we review a decision already reviewed by an agency, it is called a Merit Protection Commissioner secondary review.

You have 60 days to lodge the secondary review.

The 60 days starts from the date your agency advised you of the outcome of the primary review.

It is important to submit your application for review within the time limits (Regulation 5.23).

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What behaviour isn’t bullying and harassment?

Examples of behaviours that are not bullying and harassment include:

  • expressing differences of opinion in a respectful and courteous way
  • providing constructive and courteous feedback, counselling or advice about work-related behaviour and performance
  • carrying out legitimate or reasonable management decisions or actions, in a reasonable way and with respect and courtesy, for example:
    • transferring an employee
    • allocating work to an employee
    • setting reasonable goals, standards and deadlines
    • not selecting an employee for promotion
    • warning an employee about the consequences of unsatisfactory performance.
  • complaining about a manager's or other employee's conduct, if the complaint is made in a proper and reasonable way.

What behaviour is bullying and harassment?

Examples of workplace harassment or bullying include:

  • threatening physical behaviour — such as assault, intimidating or aggressive body language and gestures
  • verbal abuse — offensive language or derogatory remarks about lifestyle choices, physical or mental abilities, or racial or ethnic background
  • unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favours—in person, by email or online, by phone, or by text message
  • behaviour or language that threatens, frightens, humiliates or degrades — such as shouting and screaming, using sarcasm and insults, whether face-to-face, in emails, or online
  • 'initiations' and practical jokes
  • interfering with a person's personal property or work equipment
  • inappropriate or unfair application of work policies and rules — involving, for example, performance management or access to leave.

You can find more information at section 3 of the APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice, published by the APSC.

Applying for review of a bullying and harassment complaint

I don’t need more information, where do I apply?

An application form for review by the Merit Protection Commissioner of an agency decision or action if you were:

  • the person who was bullied and harassed and want review of the handling of your complaint, or
  • accused of bullying and harassment and you are dissatisfied with the handling of the allegations about your behaviour.

There is a different application form for review by the Merit Protection Commissioner of an agency decision that you have breached the Code of Conduct for bullying and harassing behaviour.

I want more information about the outcomes of bullying and harassment reviews?

You can find de-identified case summaries on a range of employment matters, including bullying and harassment at the Case summaries page under MPC resources.

Detailed information on reviews is available under the reviews of Other employment matters page.

General information on reviews is available at the MPC resources page.