Australia is experiencing a period of industrial reforms that is returning some power to workers and, according to some critics, the trade union movement – working hours, same pay for the same job, changing employment status, right to disconnect and more. A curious omission is a discussion of the concept of Zero Hours Contracts. This type of employment is crucial to improving mental health at work as it strengthens a worker’s job control, economy and security.
Last week, SafeWork New South Wales progressed the management of psychosocial hazards at work with the release of its Designing Work to Manage Psychosocial Risks guidance. This document has been a long time coming and offers significant advice on how work and people management needs to change in order to prevent psychosocial hazards. However, its implementation is likely to generate considerable opposition and confusion, or even organisational shock, if it is not able to convince employers of increased profitability and productivity from making the change.
That suicide is related to workplace mental health pressures and illnesses is undisputed, but the more independent analysis on the topic, the more complex the causes become. Sometimes, suicide can be a conscious decision, still due to socioeconomic factors but factors that are not necessarily diagnosed or treated with mental health conditions.
[This article discusses suicide risks]
This reality complicates, and should complicate, strategies for the prevention of suicide. Recently, Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) submitted its pre-budget wishlist to the government. This submission included action on suicide and mental health but in traditional ways.
Last week, the Australian Parliament passed workplace relations legislation that included a Right-To-Disconnect.
The Australian Greens announced on February 7, 2024, that the Right-To-Disconnect (RTD) bill would pass Parliament as part of workplace relations reforms. On February 8, 2024, the mainstream media wrote as if the laws had already been passed. However, several issues with these laws indicate they are unlikely to be applied in practice as widely as advocates claim and in the way anticipated.
The closer the RTD laws come to reality, the more useless they appear.
The Victorian government has released the final report of the Legislative Council Economy and Infrastructure Committee’s inquiry into the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (WorkCover Scheme Modernisation) Bill. Many readers will already be asleep after that sentence. Forgive me, it is accurate, but is the report of any use? It certainly progresses the debate on psychosocial regulations.
Denise Zumpe is an Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional who focuses on workplace health and safety matters in the transport sector. Below is a letter that she intended to send to The Age and writer Esther Linder outlining some inaccuracies in an Australian Associated Press article (paywalled) concerning the jailing of Cris Large, a court case discussed in an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article.
“A former transport executive has been jailed for up to three years for his reckless workplace behaviour in the lead-up to a crash that killed four police officers on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway.”
The AAP article appeared in a number of Australian media. An amended version appeared on ABC News.