Canberra’s New Reportable Conduct Scheme – child protection obligations in the employment space

The new Reportable Conduct Scheme is now effective in Canberra, as of 1 July 2017. The ACT government passed legislation introducing the Scheme subsequent to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Scheme is designed to ensure that allegations concerning child protection are identified, reported and acted on appropriately, at an employment based level.

What is the Reportable Conduct Scheme?

The Scheme creates obligations for employers of designated entities, as well as all ACTPS Directorates, to notify the ACT Ombudsman of any allegations claiming that an employee has:

  • engaged in conduct that results in ill treatment, neglect or psychological harm to a child;
  • engaged in misconduct of a sexual nature; or
  • committed a criminal offence involving a child.

Once a report is received, the ACT Ombudsman has powers to independently oversee, monitor and report on an entity’s investigation.

Designated entities under the Scheme include; administrative units dealing with the welfare and wellbeing of children, health services providers, government and non-government schools, child care services, providers of educational or care services, approved kinship or foster care organisations and approved residential care organisations.

Why was the Scheme introduced?

The Scheme mirrors the NSW system, which is aimed to create uniform standards for child protection federally. Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry commented that “there’s no point in having islands of safety in different States or Territories for children.” Consistency is required in supporting and protecting vulnerable children.

The Scheme has been criticised as it does not directly cover entities such as religious groups, sporting clubs, Scouts groups and services which provide instructions in a particular activity (for example swimming lessons). Inclusion of religious groups has been labelled crucial as strong affiliations with religious beliefs often create conflicts in investigations. The Scheme provides an extra layer of scrutiny which would prevent such conflicts.

Deputy Chief Minister Berry has responded, stating a review of the Scheme’s effectiveness would begin immediately. However, any decisions to extend obligations would not take place until after December when the Royal Commission presents its final report.

How does the Scheme affect your employment?

The Scheme covers all ACT employees under a contract of employment to a designated employer. Employees must be aware of child safety issues, and are responsible for ensuring that any allegations of reportable conduct are reported to an appropriate person.

How does the Scheme affect your business?

An employer must notify the Ombudsman of any reportable conduct allegations or convictions involving an employee within 30 days of becoming aware of the conduct. This notification must occur as soon as possible, by submitting a section 17G notification form. Employers must also investigate allegations and provide a final report to the Ombudsman. Additionally, employers are compelled to report to other bodies such as ACT Policing and Child and Youth Protective Services as required.

Next Steps:

Employers should adjust their employment policies and procedures to ensure they reflect the new obligations under the Scheme. Employers also need to educate their employees about their reporting obligations. Employers who fail to comply with reporting obligations can face a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units, 6 months’ imprisonment or both.

Griffin Legal can provide assistance with drafting and updating your employment policies and procedures.

To find out more about the Scheme visit http://www.ombudsman.act.gov.au/reportable-conduct-scheme  or contact our office for advice.

Division 2.2A Reportable conduct –

http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/alt_a1989-45co/current/pdf/alt_a1989-45co.pdf

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