Victorian public servants more stressed than healthcare workers, but face less than half the amount of violence at work

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday April 27, 2020

Employees with disability and young women are at most risk of sexual harassment across the Victorian public sector, according to a new report from the state government.

The latest State of the Public Sector report  shows there has been widespread decline in the incidence of bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination across the sector every year since 2016. Despite this, there is still “further room for improvement”.

Acting Victorian public sector commissioner Julia Griffith argues a positive values-based culture is associated with lower levels of such “negative behaviours”.

“There is scope to intensify our efforts to create workplace cultures that are strongly aligned with the public sector values,” she says.

Majority of public service faces gender pay gap

The Victorian Public Service employs 50,416 workers, 60% of which are women. Meanwhile, people with disability account for 3.7%, 17% speak a language other than English at home, and 6.1% identify as LGBTIQ.

Just 1.2% of the VPS workforce — 607 people — is Aboriginal. The report notes this is a “significant increase” on the 294 Aboriginal employees reported at June 2014.

Men in the VPS earn a median salary of $92,009, compared to $87,789 for women — a 4.6% pay gap.

The report notes the gap “reflects that women were more likely than men to be employed at lower classification levels”. Of the 1259 public servants employed in executive positions, 50% are women.

Public servants satisfied with their jobs but want more support

In response to the People Matter Survey — the state government’s largest sector-wide workforce survey — 62% of public servants are satisfied with their current job, work-life balance, and professional development. This is on par with the creative, finance, and transport sectors, but is lower than the 65% average for the entire public sector.

The water and land management industry has the most number of satisfied employees, at 74%. The TAFE and education industry has the lowest with only 59%.

On mental health and wellbeing, about half of public servants believe there is a good level of communication about psychological safety issues that affect them in their workplace, compared with a low of 42% of teachers, and a high of 61% in water and land management.

While 57% of public servants think their organisation has effective procedures in place to support employees who may experience stress, 41% think senior leaders consider the mental health of employees to be as important as productivity.

Only 40% said senior leaders have shown support for stress prevention through involvement and commitment, with 36% indicating that all levels of their organisation were involved in the prevention of stress.

Cultural issues remain a problem

Despite being more stressed than health, police, and emergency services workers, only 11% of public servants have experienced aggression or violent behaviour in the past year. This is compared to a shocking 25% of public health care workers, and 24% of police and emergency services workers having experienced such behaviour.

A total of 7.6% of public servants have experienced sexual harassment — a decrease from 10% in 2017, and lower than the public sector average of 8.5%. Police and emergency services workers were impacted the most by sexual harassment (9.9%).

Across the entire public sector, employees with disability and women aged 15–34 experience sexual harassment the most, closely followed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander employees.

Fourteen percent of VPS employees have experienced bullying at work, down from 18.3% in 2017.

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