HR needs to broaden its pool of risks

Human Resources (HR) professionals often have an enviable degree of influence over the decision making of company executives. In modern parlance, they are “influencers”; as such it is useful to keep an eye on the advice offered by the association that represents HR professionals, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

Recently, freelance journalist, David Barbeler wrote “A comprehensive look at what lies ahead for workplaces in 2020” in AHRI’s HR Magazine. Given that the article is headlined as comprehensive, there are several peculiar occupational health and safety (OHS)-related omissions, especially workplace sexual harassment, Industrial Manslaughter, suicide and mental health.

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“Moral Harassment” = Workplace Bullying. France Telecom lessons

The France Telecom suicide saga has reached a conclusion with a French Court sending several of company’s former executives to jail as a result of “collective moral harassment”. This will have very little impact on the management of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia because of the timing and inadequate translation and context.

“Moral Harassment” is a term that is absent from the Australian OHS lexicon. One equivalent term is “mobbing” but this is also an uncommon term in Australia. Australia’s equivalent is “workplace bullying” as mentioned in research by Katherine Lippel of the University of Ottawa in 2011 (pages 1-2).

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New Zealand leads on wellbeing

A couple of months ago, SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget. Last week a representative of the NZ Treasury, Ruth Shinoda, spoke about it from direct experience in Melbourne at the 7th Global Healthy Workplace Summit. The Wellbeing Budget and a complimentary Living Standard Framework provide important contrasts to how Australia is valuing the healthy and safety of its citizens and workers.

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Looks good but could be better

The Australian Financial Review on October 1 2019 contained an exclusive report on consulting firm (paywalled) Deloitte’s approach to mental health at work matters coinciding with National Safe Work Month. The original document is unlikely to be publicly released but Edmund Tadros‘ report provides some quotes and insights. The initiative seems very positive until you consider it in light of organisational changes recommended to control and prevent this psychological hazards from Safe Work Australia (SWA) guidance.

Tadros quotes Deloitte’s Australian CEO Richard Deutsch:

“Mr Deutsch said in the message that individual differences could mean “what I find stressful you may find motivating, and vice versa. I don’t want anyone to feel their health and wellbeing is compromised because of work”.

This broad statement fits with the employer’s duties under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, so it’s a good start. But doubts about the strategy start to emerged when Deutsch mentions workload, a contentious issue for Deloitte’s junior staff:

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Does “Meaningful Work” mean anything useful?

In September 2019 an Australian recruiting firm, Beaumont People, has commissioned a research project to identify what constitutes meaningful work. The company places meaningful work in the context of at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals (SDGs) – Decent Work and Economic Growth, but it is difficult to understand what is meant by “meaningful work”. Couldn’t the survey have used the UN Decent Work criteria?

The Beaumont People website says this of Meaningful Work:

“Meaningful Work is the importance an individual places on their work meeting their current personal beliefs, values, goals, expectations, and purpose in the context of their social and cultural environment.

Despite the vast amount of research undertaken on the concept and measurement of meaningful work, there remains no consistent definition of meaningful work nor consensus on the scales designed to measure it.”

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