Noticeable increase in workplace mental stress claims 3

Australia’s Comcare agency has identified a “54% increase in mental stress claims” since 2006-2007.  This is of great concern to the agency, which covers the OHS and compensation needs of Australian government agencies and others, as Work Health and Safety General Manager, Neil Quarmby, outlines in a media release on 21 July 2011.

Quarmby states

“Clearly this trend could have serious consequences for employees and employers through serious health issues and a significant loss in productivity. I am keen that employers get the message that health and safety at work is not only a physical issue but also increasingly involves mental health as well…”

The media release has generated some media attention (audio article available HERE) but often this has not focussed on the trend mentioned and instead on an element in the media release that involves the OHS issue-du-jour, workplace bullying. More…

France Telecome’s CSR report is telling but sets high expectations Reply

In 2009, France Telecom’s management practices came to global attention as a result of a spate of over 20 suicides that were identified as work-related.  On 6 June 2011, France Telecom released its Corporate Responsibility Report that covers the period of the management turmoil touched upon in earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog articles.

The document is an impressive document that sets an enormously high benchmark on a range of corporate and personnel issues but one will find no mention of suicides.  The best indication that this was a company in crisis is the level of inquiries, reviews, audits and workplace safety control measures that have been implemented over the last two years.  It is also important to remember that the control measures are designed to bring about a cultural and organisational change to this corporation and that this will take a considerable time.  The struggle can be best, and most tragically, illustrated by the April 2011 self-immolation of a France Telecom employee in the company carpark in Merignac.

By acknowledging that this report has come from a company in crisis it is possible to identify some useful OHS, human resource and organisational cultural initiatives that may be applied in other large corporations around the world. More…

Canada begins developing a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace 2

Mental health is attracting a huge amount of attention in western countries but much of this has a public health focus.  Workplace mental health is not getting enough attention even though, correctly applied, this collective term could include the occupational hazards of stress, bullying, depression and suicide.

Canada has leapt ahead of most countries by committing to develop a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.  According to a backgrounder on the initiative, the Standard

“…will be a stand‐alone voluntary standard. It will provide a methodology that will lead to measureable improvements in psychological health and safety for Canadian employees in their workplaces.”

Significantly, the business case for the Standard is expected to result in

  • enhanced cost effectiveness,
  • improved risk management,
  • increased organizational recruitment and retention [and
  • increased] corporate social responsibility.

This Canadian initiative has considerable merit and may provide the (non-regulatory) glue that is needed to supply a business-friendly management structure for a range of workplace mental health issues that are being combatted in isolation from one another.  Workplace depression is fighting for attention against bullying which is battling out of a subset of stress……… More…

Workplace bullying survey of dubious value 2

A doomsaying workplace bullying survey is doing the rounds of the Australian media on 8 June 2011. The media release accompanying the survey (neither are yet available online), produced for a “web-based employment screening solution” WorkPro, says

“One quarter of employees (23%) say that they have been a victim of bullying or discrimination in the workplace in the last two years,…”

An equally valid interpretation from the same survey figures could be

Three quarters of employees (76%) say that they have not been a victim of bullying or discrimination in the workplace in the last two years.”

The survey is terrific news. Workplace bullying may not be as big a problem in the workplace as recent media reports have led us to believe. But the survey takes the negative perspective and it is the negative that is being reiterated in the media. More…

Brodie’s Law on bullying needs more consideration for workplace application 8

Recent attention on the presentation of the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 to the Victorian Parliament has, understandably, focussed on the changes to the criminal code. However some of that attention should also have been given to the existing rules and control measures under workplace law, particularly considering that the proposed amendments, commonly referred to as Brodie’s law, are being described in the context of workplace bullying.

WorkSafe Victoria’s 2005 guidance on workplace violence and bullying specifies what elements of the Crimes Act 1958 could be relevant to workplace bullying:

  • Intentionally or Recklessly Causing Serious Injury
  • Intentionally or Recklessly Causing Injury
  • Threats to Kill
  • Threats to Inflict Serious Injury
  • Stalking

The inclusion of the last item may surprise some who have been reading only the newspaper coverage of Brodie’s Law as there was a clear implication that the application of stalking to workplace bullying was new.

Law firm Clayton Utz reminds us that workplace bullying remains undefined in the Crimes Act and that the Bill

“… extends the definition of the pre-existing offence of stalking by expanding the definition of that offence to pick up the type of behaviours that are typical of workplace bullying.”

If the Bill passes the Victorian Parliament, the OHS regulator will need to amend its advice on workplace bullying to reflect the expanded definition of stalking. But as can be seen by the bullet points above, changes to guidance may be minor as stalking is already seen as a potential element of workplace bullying. More…