Working in the public sector

As well as their employment contract, public sector employees are usually protected by public sector employment legislation.

Some of the processes that may affect public sector employees include:

  • Code of conduct investigations
  • Disciplinary action
  • Conflict of interest allegations
  • Changes to workplace entitlements and conditions
  • Termination

It is important to understand which is the correct jurisdiction for taking action such an unfair dismissal claim.  State and local government employers are usually not “national system” employers.  For instance an employee of Queensland Police or Queensland Health cannot lodge an unfair dismissal claim under the Fair Work Act but must proceed within the state system.

If you are a public sector employee it is especially important to investigate your rights, know where you stand, and take action whilst you are still employed.  Contact WorkLegal without delay.

Have you experienced difficulty working in the public sector? Contact us for early advice.

1300 223 398


Case Study – Bullying in the public sector

A worker was appointed team leader in the NSW Department of Housing ahead of another worker who had hoped to be appointed to the position.  The team leader claimed that her employer negligently allowed her to be bullied for about 2 years, and that she was subjected to harassment and victimisation including:

  • disruption and opposition to the changes she was trying to make
  • rudeness and refusal to accept direction
  • open hostility
  • excluded from a meeting held to document a list of grievances against her

No effective action was taken by senior management to deal with problems in the team even though concerns were raised.  The team leader suffered a psychological condition and brought an injury claim for damages. 

The court found that the employer negligently failed to take effective action to respond to the team leader’s requests for assistance to deal with insubordination by the team, and award damages. 

NSW v Mannall [2005] NSWCA 367

Case Study – Unreasonable management action in the public sector

A teacher applied for workers’ compensation for a psychological condition alleged to have resulted from monitoring and mentoring of her performance and bullying by the school principal.  The issue was whether her application should be refused on the grounds that the action towards her was “management action taken on reasonable grounds and in a reasonable manner”.

The court found that although there were “reasonable grounds” – the school had a duty to take action in regard to complaints it had received about the teacher – the management action was not undertaken in a reasonable way, for reasons including:

  • school guidelines for monitoring were not followed
  • she was not given feedback
  • on her first day back from long service leave, and before she could start classes, she was given a 3 page letter about performance issues.

By failing to follow its own procedures the school was found to have taken management action in an unreasonable manner, and the application for workers’ compensation was allowed.

Krygsman-Yeates v State of Victoria [2011] VMC 57

Need help?

Don’t leave it too late. Wherever you are in Australia we can help.


Call us for a no-obligation chat to assess if we can assist you:

1300 223 398


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Office: 155 Varsity Parade, Varsity Lakes, QLD 4217

Based in Gold Coast Queensland, we assist our valued clients wherever they are in Australia.