In today’s fast-paced work environment, the importance of addressing psychosocial risks in the workplace cannot be overstated. These risks can have significant impacts on your employee’s mental health, resulting in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and even serious long-term health problems.
In response to the growing awareness of the importance of psychological health and safety, Australia has seen a number of legislative developments in 2022 and 2023. Legislation comes into place in Queensland on 1 April 2023. However, there is already similar legislation all other states.
The legislation aims to provide clearer guidelines for employers and employees, ensuring the psychological well-being of workers is treated with the same level of importance as physical safety. This article will explore these recent updates and provide insights into how businesses can navigate these new regulations to foster a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.
As an employer, you will need to be proactive in identifying and managing these risks to create a safe and healthy work environment for all.
WHAT ARE PSYCHOSOCIAL RISKS?
Psychosocial risks refer to the potential negative impacts that certain workplace factors can have on employees’ mental health and well-being. These risks are often the result of a combination of organisational, interpersonal and individual factors. Examples of psychosocial risks can include high job demands, low job control, poor work-life balance, workplace bullying or harassment and/or lack of support from colleagues or management.
Impact on workers’ mental health and well-being
The consequences of unaddressed psychosocial risks can be significant, affecting both individual employees and the overall workplace environment.
For your employees, exposure to these risks can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression, which in turn can contribute to physical health issues – e.g. cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders and sleep disturbances. Additionally, when employees experience psychosocial risks, they may struggle with job satisfaction, engagement and motivation which ultimate result in decreased productivity and higher rates of absenteeism and turnover.
By addressing psychosocial risks, you can both improve the well-being of your employees and create a more efficient and harmonious work environment.
NEW PRIMARY DUTY FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
Broadening the scope of primary duty of care to now encompass psychological health as well as physical safety reflects a growing understanding of the importance of mental well-being in the workplace and the need for employers to take proactive measures to address psychosocial risks. Under the updated legislation, all employers are to provide a work environment that is, as far as reasonably practicable, free from risks to both physical and psychological health.
Requirements for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)
To meet the primary duty of care for psychological health, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must take a proactive approach to identify, assess, and manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. This involves:
- Identifying potential psychosocial risks through consultation with workers, workplace observations, and reviewing relevant data such as sick leave and worker feedback.
- Assessing the potential impact and severity of identified risks on workers’ mental health and well-being.
- Implementing appropriate control measures to manage and mitigate identified psychosocial risks, taking into account the specific context and nature of the workplace.
- Monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of implemented control measures and making adjustments as needed to ensure continuous improvement in psychological health and safety.
By complying with these requirements, PCBUs demonstrate their commitment to fostering a psychologically healthy and safe work environment, ultimately benefiting both workers and the business as a whole.
UPDATED LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE MATERIAL
Queensland – managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022
In Queensland, the “Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022” provides guidance to PCBUs and workers on identifying, assessing, and managing psychosocial risks in the workplace. This code of practice emphasises the importance of a systematic approach to managing psychosocial hazards and offers practical advice to help employers comply with their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Victoria – Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations
In Victoria, the “Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations” have been introduced to address the growing concern over psychological health in the workplace. These regulations mandate employers to identify and manage psychosocial risks in their workplaces, reflecting a commitment to a more comprehensive approach to worker health and safety.
New South Wales – Code of Practice for Managing psychosocial hazards at work
In New South Wales, the state led the way as the first jurisdiction to embrace the amendments to the Model WHS Regulations. Starting 1 October 2022, PCBUs operating in New South Wales are required to address psychosocial risks and employ control measures to eliminate these risks to the extent that is reasonably practicable. If eliminating psychosocial risks is not feasible, they must minimise the risks as much as possible.
South Australia – News of changes yet to come
Not much has been said on steps being taken at the state level by South Australia to adjust to the changes in WHS legislation, though many publications have commented that they expect the state to adopt a code of practice similar to that of the model code of practice being adopted by other state governments in the country. Regardless, the federal changes will come into effect from 1 July, 2023.
Western Australia – Work Health and Safety Act 2020 and Code of Practice: Psychosocial hazards in the workplace
In Western Australia, the “Work Health and Safety Act 2020” has expanded the definition of health to include psychological well-being. Additionally, the “Code of Practice: Psychosocial hazards in the workplace” provides guidance for employers and workers on managing psychosocial risks, promoting a safer and healthier work environment.
Northern Territory – Code of Practice Soon to Come
In the Northern Territory, new legislation mandating businesses to manage psychosocial hazards at work comes into effect on 1 July 2023. The Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 obliges businesses to take actions to eradicate psychosocial risks. Furthermore, NT WorkSafe is in the process of creating a new code of practice to foster mental health in the workplace, which will be completed and available by the 1 July deadline.
Tasmania – Work Health and Safety Regulations 2022 and Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work
In Tasmania, the “Work Health and Safety Regulations 2022” have been updated to include provisions for psychological health. The “Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work” offers guidance on how employers and workers can collaboratively address psychosocial hazards in the workplace, emphasising the importance of a risk management approach.
Australia-wide – changes to the Model Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations and Amendment to the WHS Regulations 2011
At the national level, amendments to the Model WHS Regulations and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 reflect the growing emphasis on psychological health in Australian workplaces. These changes aim to harmonise regulations across jurisdictions and provide a consistent framework for managing psychosocial risks, ensuring that all workers in Australia are protected from harm to their mental well-being.
In conclusion, the recent legislative developments in Australia have underscored the importance of addressing psychosocial risks in the workplace.
As an employer and/or a duty holder, you must be aware of the changes in the regulatory landscape and the obligations that that apply to the state(s) within which you operate. By understanding the nature of psychosocial risks and their impact on your employees, you can take proactive steps to manage these hazards.
Striving to create a safe and healthy work environment will ensure you and your business meets its legal obligations and also promote the well-being and productivity of your employees.
Ultimately, a psychologically healthy workplace benefits everyone, contributing to a more resilient, engaged, and high-performing workforce.
Akyra’s Key Takeaways
- Employers must address psychosocial risks in the workplace to maintain employees’ mental health and well-being and comply with new legislative developments in Australia.
- Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must take a proactive approach to identify, assess, and manage psychosocial risks in the workplace.
- Support and training for employees are crucial in managing psychosocial risks, including offering mental health resources and fostering an open and supportive work environment.
- Employers should consult with workers, observe workplace conditions, and review relevant data to identify potential psychosocial risks.
- Review and update your organisation’s policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with the updated regulations, and have them implemented and in place by 1 July 2023.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help address all your questions and concerns related to legislation changes, updating policies and procedures to remain compliant with these changes, and provide advice and recommendations on the management of psychosocial risks and hazards. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.