Reports of bullying in public service increase

The Australian Public Service is engaged, invested and growing – but so are reports of unacceptable workplace behaviour in the public sector, according to the latest State of the Service Report.

APSC Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer

Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer says it’s encouraging to see high levels of engagement among Commonwealth public servants, with 76 per cent of staff getting a sense of accomplishment from their work.

Ninety-two per cent believe their work contributes to outcomes for the Australian public, and 84 per cent believe strongly in the purpose and objectives of the APS.

“These positive sentiments are consistent with the responses of staff to APS Reform initiatives including the work on stewardship, where … around 90 per cent of respondents confirmed that they do see themselves as stewards in their workplace,” Dr de Brouwer said.

“For these staff, stewardship means taking care of the APS for the long-term and future generations, maintaining knowledge and responsible management.”

The report tabled by the APSC on Wednesday also shows the service grew by almost 7 per cent in the last financial year, leading the government to claim its reforms to the public sector are bearing fruit.

The figures show the Australian Government is becoming an employer of choice, Assistant Minister for the Public Service Pat Gorman said.

“The results are in: public service work is being put back in the hands of public servants,” he said in a statement.

Reports of harassment, bullying grow

But the news isn’t all glowing, with the report also indicating that unacceptable workplace behaviour is a growing problem.

In 2023, 10.4 per cent of respondents to the APS Employee Census said they had been subjected to harassment or bullying in the workplace in the last 12 months, up from 9.7 per cent in 2022.

Reported rates of perceived harassment or bullying are higher for some APS agencies, Dr de Brouwer noted.

“We must have a culture of zero tolerance for any form of unacceptable behaviour in the APS, and work together to bring this about,” he said.

There’s also room for improvement in the upper levels of the public service, with SES officers needing to work on their teamwork both within and between agencies, and to communicate more effectively, Dr de Brouwer said.

And while the gender gap shrunk to below 6 per cent, APS employment data shows that three out of every four employees were born in Australia, indicating a need for greater diversity in the service.

Read more here: Results of the 2023 Trust in Public Services Survey.

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