The Queensland Times newspaper recently published an article suggesting a recent spike in bullying and harassment at the Ipswich Hospital.
This article suggests that 33% of junior doctors at the Ipswich Hospital have experienced bullying, discrimination or harassment at work. This had apparently increased from 9% in 2017 [based on a survey conducted by the Resident Hospital Health Check].
The Logan Hospital came out worse at 37%, and the Darling Downs Health Services were slightly better at 32% for this year.
Across the State, these figures increase to 37.9% on average, but down from 47% the year prior.
The Hospitals adopt a zero tolerance approach to bullying, but this appears to not be enough to stamp out the culture according to this survey.
So if the State figures are reducing, but the Ipswich Hospital has had such a dramatic increase in bullying, discrimination or harassment at work, what is going on, and if you are one of those victims what can you do about it?
Every worker, no matter gender, age, race or occupation is entitled to be free from harassment in their workplace.
You might have options to protect you through the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 if you are discriminated or harassed because of:-
- Impairment or disability;
- Religious or political beliefs;
- Sexuality; or
- Pregnancy or marital status.
or the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 if you are subjected to:-
- Intimidation; or
- Unreasonable management action, taken in an unreasonable way.
Bullying and harassment can be from a co-worker, a manager, or supervisor but is not acceptable in any situation.
Sometimes your employer can be responsible for the bullying or harassment by one of their employees. This is known as vicarious liability.
An employer would not normally be held vicariously liable if they can prove that they took reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. Queensland Health have adopted the zero tolerance policy, but the test is a bit more complicated than just adopting that policy. Something must be done to protect those that care for others.
In some instances bullying and harassment can be easily identifiable, such as, a physical assault that is witnessed by others, however, there are some instances where it is sometimes difficult to prove that bullying or harassment has occurred.
The survey suggests that only 5% of the bullying or harassment that occurred in the Ipswich Hospital was reported, and of those only, 25% were appropriately addressed. 67% of those surveyed feared that there would be negative consequences if they reported the bullying or harassment.
If there is fear of negative consequences, then why would someone report bullying or harassment, but if it is not reported it undoubtedly makes it much more difficult to prove. By not reporting, it allows those bullies to get away with their behavior. It is not tolerated in the schoolyard, so why should it be tolerated in our Hospitals.
If you have experienced bullying or harassment time limits apply.
For complaints of discrimination or harassment, you only have 12 months to lodge your complaint in writing to the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland or the complaint may not be able to be investigated.
For WorkCover claims, you must lodge your application for workers’ compensation with WorkCover Queensland within six (6) months of your injury.
If more than six (6) months lapses between the time of the occurrence of the injury and lodging the claim, the claim may not be granted by WorkCover Queensland without a reasonable excuse for the delay.
If you have the right to make a common law claim for damages you have three (3) years from the date of injury or accident to file court documents or serve a compliant Notice of Claim for Damages or you will forever lose your right to make a claim.