Agencies have a number of pathways which are available to them to decisively handle complaints and concerns raised about inappropriate workplace behaviour. Agencies may choose to conduct an investigation, refer the allegations to a third party for investigation, or attempt to manage and resolve these type of complaints in the workplace through other more informal alternative dispute mechanisms.
For example, an employee made a bullying complaint against their manger to their agency. The agency decided to conduct a preliminary assessment of the complaint which involved obtaining documents of evidence from the employee and conducting an interview.
In concluding the preliminary assessment, the delegate made a finding that, due to insufficient evidence, no bullying had occurred and no breach of the APS Code of Conduct had occurred. After seeking internal review by their agency without success, the employee applied for secondary review with the Merit Protection Commissioner (MPC).
The MPC considered that the agency’s decision constituted findings with respect to whether the manager had breached the APS Code of Conduct and whether the allegations of bullying by the manager were substantiated. The decision was inconsistent with the intention by the agency to conduct a preliminary assessment and not commence a Code of Conduct process.
In order to make findings of facts or findings that an employee had, or had not, breached of the Code of Conduct, an investigation should be commenced in accordance with the agency’s section 15(3) procedures of the Public Service Act 1999. Where these procedures are not enacted, Code of Conduct findings cannot reasonably be made. The MPC recommended the agency set aside the decision.