NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the policy response to Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination within Emergency Service Agencies
On 11 May 2017, NSW Parliamentary legal affairs portfolio committee commenced an inquiry into the prevalence of bullying, harassment and discrimination as well as the effectiveness of the protocols and procedures in place to manage and resolve such complaints within certain NSW emergency service agencies.
During the inquiry, the Committee received 194 submissions and 60 supplementary submissions; and held six public hearings in Sydney where they heard evidence from emergency service employees who had been subjected to bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and whose complaints were not managed effectively in a timely manner or with impartiality.
On 24 July 2018, the Committee’s inquiry report was tabled and provided 27 recommendations to assist in the management of bullying, harassment and discrimination complaints within the emergency services, and to provide assistance in ensuring the mental well-being of employees within the emergency services agencies.
The primary recommendation following the inquiry was that the NSW Government establish an independent, external complaints management oversight body for workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination in the NSW Police Force, NSW Rural Fire Service, Ambulance Service of NSW, NSW State Emergency Service and Fire & Rescue NSW.
It was recommended that the independent body:
- Be available for workers who have exhausted their agency’s internal complaints management processes, or whose complaint has not been determined within a reasonable time frame
- Facilitate the timely resolution of complaints
- Promote procedural fairness and natural justice
- Provides advice and support to all involved parties
- Works with the agencies to improve policies and procedures relating to complaints management.
Other recommendations made by the Committee focused largely on areas to make the mental health of emergency service employees a priority across all agencies. This included reviewing the effectiveness of current training with respect to bullying, harassment and discrimination and developing additional training specifically targeted at this area, incorporating best-practice methods and lessons obtained from the inquiry.