Deutsche Welle‘s regular program “World in Progress” reported on Work in its December 18 2019 edition. It includes discussions of exploitation and trafficking of Nigerian women and South Korean workers being pressured to reluctantly attend work functions. Of particular relevance to the theme of this blog is the last report in the program when workplace psychological health is discussed.
Member magazines, those magazines included in a professional’s membership, are an important source of information. Members of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, for instance, receive the RoyalAuto magazine which is really the primary source of information on changes to road rules. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) associations have internal magazines for a similarly targeted audience. Australian accountants have the In The Black magazine.
Recently In The Black published an article about mental health at work titled “Get smart with mental health”. No background to the author, Helen Hawkes, was provided and no references were included for the data used to support statements about the importance of the mental health. Context and sources are important to all articles but arguably moreso for member magazines and, especially, for professionals like accountants who can have a major impact on how OHS is managed.
Much of the information in the article would be familiar to OHS professionals – Return on Investment, the cost of Presenteeism as a percentage of payroll…. What is almost entirely missing is advice on how to prevent mental ill-health from occurring in the first place, and there is no mention of any of the OHS guidance in this area published by Safe Work Australia.
This blog has a policy of linking to source documents wherever possible. Recently I investigated the origin of the statement, and its variations:
“In a 12 month period, 20 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition.”
Clarity on this is going to be important as Australia has several formal inquiries relating to mental health and this statement often crops up in strategy documents and policies related to occupational health and safety (OHS).
Earlier this week former chair of the Australian Government’s National Mental Health Commission, Allan Fels (pictured right) addressed a lunch hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The topicality of his presentation stemmed from two major inquiries into mental health – one by the Federal Government and undertaken by the Productivity Commission (PC), the other is a Royal Commission from the Victorian Government. The breadth of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the PC inquiry has generated a very broad level of interest across the social spectrum. The Royal Commission ToR are yet to be released.
Fels acknowledged the role that workplaces have in addressing mental health
Australia’s entertainment and performing arts sector is gradually attending to the workplace mental health risks that are inherent, or have been shown to be problematic, in their industry. However it continues to operate in isolation rather than facing the reality and magnitude of the problems and the challenges facing lots of industries who have only recently discovered their psychosocial hazards.
The latest edition of Dance Australia magazine contains an interview with Chloe Dallimore,* President of Equity, a division of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which illustrates the willingness to change, but still within limits. Occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations are hardly mentioned, nor is the role of the OHS regulators. Perhaps it is time to include mental health as a workplace incident or condition that should be notifiable under law.