The introduction of a code of practice on how to manage psychosocial hazards in the workplace, should be a wakeup call to employers who do not have up to date policies.
New South Wales is the first state in Australia to introduce such a code, which will be referred to in court if employers do not act on their legal responsibility to address hazards in the workplace that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm.
Research by the New South Wales government indicates more than 90 per cent of businesses in the state do not have an established approach to addressing psychosocial hazards in their place of work.
This figure is backed up by Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor, which has seen a 22 per cent increase in grievance-related calls to its advice line in the first five months of 2021, compared to the same period last year.
“I believe the state government’s figure is replicated across the country as the current legislative framework does not properly address the issue, and business owners have been left out in the cold as to what they are required to do,” said Employsure Health and Safety Manager Larry Drewsen.
“This situation however is clearly about to change, and there is going to be a strong expectation by the regulators that employers will protect their employees from psychosocial hazards in the workplace.”
Common forms of psychosocial hazards include role overload or underload, bullying or workplace violence, harassment, poor support or conflict from managers / co-workers, inadequate recognition, hazardous work environments, exposure to traumatic events, or remote or isolated work.
Business owners have a duty to protect workers and employees from these hazards, and should be aware regulators will now be placing a much stronger emphasis on this in the near future.
Employers should review their workplace policies and make any changes if necessary. If psychosocial hazards are identified, employers should engage in conversation with their employees, assess what needs to be changed, and, as far as is reasonably practicable, work to eliminate or minimise the risk.
“It is clear regulators now have a much stronger expectation of what a safe workplace should look like, and it is only a matter of time before we see regulations addressing psychosocial injuries updated in all states and territories.
“Employers must have strategies and control measures in place to clearly identify hazards and risks for the mental health of their employees. If they are proactive and work to minimise risks early, it will help avoid potential and unnecessary legal cases in the future,” concluded Mr Drewsen.