There were varying views expressed about the staffing situation at Banksia Hill. Nearly everyone consulted (including both staff and detainees) believed that staff shortages were a key contributor to the riot. In the employee survey 47.9 per cent of respondents attributed staff shortages to the occurrence of the riot and 33.3 per cent attributed it to lockdowns (which was stated to occur because of staff shortages). However, it should be noted that this is not connected to an FTE shortage as Banksia Hill was running largely to its FTE allocation. As previously described, the primary issue is that staff have not been turning up for work, resulting in extreme staff shortages. These staff shortages are due to unplanned absences, including both workers’ compensation leave and personal leave.
Poor morale and an increase in fear and stress have also been factors. The Workers’ Compensation problem is not new but the percentage of stress related claims has increased, with mental stress constituting 10 per cent of claims in 2010 and 33 per cent in 2012. While no doubt the increasing number and escalation of detainee incidents would have increased the fear and stress levels of many employees, it is fair to say that with a healthier culture and stronger and more effective leadership and management presence, including amongst senior officers, it is unlikely that unplanned absences would have reached these rates.
Secondary employment was raised as a contributing factor by some stakeholders but examination of the secondary employment register did not raise any serious concerns. While there always remains a possibility of undisclosed secondary employment, this was not a significant issue during this Inquiry, particularly when compared to the issues of management, culture and morale.
It is evident that there has been inadequate management of the unplanned leave situation. Workers’ Compensation needs proactive and attentive management and this has not occurred. The immediate manager of the employee on workers’ compensation has an important role to play in paying attention, communicating with the staff member concerned and working positively with that employee to find out the causes of the absence and in finding solutions. However, serious issues such as these require expertise from HR professionals, which has been found wanting. Clearly the current Head Office workers’ compensation case officer team of three is woefully under-resourced to tackle the problem. Each has a case load of approximately 140 which means that they can do no more than track cases and report. Active management is out of the question.
Overall, there was little evidence of site-based HR support or expertise to manage workers’ compensation cases. Management reported that HR staff were unable to provide a budget, report on overtime data, or develop a business case, and were absent or working restricted hours due to workers’ compensation leave/personal leave for key periods in 2012. Corporate HR provided a resource from Community and Youth Justice HR to assist 2 days a week “to coach, mentor and guide” for a 12 week period, however this was arguably insufficient. Given the extent of the problem, what was probably needed was the expertise of a senior HR practitioner to directly case manage each and every case until the numbers were normalised.
One ex-employee who had been on workers’ compensation, stated that he believed “that HR people should ring individuals on Workers Comp to assist them in getting back to work and basically show some care”. Due to a lack of available personnel, this was not happening.