Precarious Work, Pandemics and Australia’s Future – Let’s Not Forget the Link

This is a guest post by Michael Quinlan & Dr Elsa Underhill (links added).

In mid- August 2020 Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews labelled insecure work as toxic and argued a fundamental policy reset was required into the future.  He stated:

Insecure work is toxic. There is nothing good about insecure work, and when this is done, when this virus has been beaten, we will need to commit ourselves to do something really significant about it. It is no good for anything, for families, for a sense of security [and] for public health, for any purpose. We have a lot of people who work very hard but have no safety net to fall back on and that is just not something we should settle for .

(Guardian 16 August 2020)

The observation generated little publicity and was soon forgotten as the Victorian COVID outbreak caused deepening concern across the nation. But the first major Australian political leader to call precarious work for what it demonstrably was should start a long overdue public debate.

Continue reading “Precarious Work, Pandemics and Australia’s Future – Let’s Not Forget the Link”

Change big things, little things benefit

I bought Genevieve Hawkins’ self-published book “Mentally at Work – Optimising Health and Business Performance through Connection” because I have met Genevieve at various Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) conferences and wanted to know her thoughts.

Her book is about an increasingly important element of OHS – psychological harm – and reinforces the Human Resources (HR) approach to mental health at work which is based around Leadership and Psychology. This HR perspective is the dominant approach to mental health at work in Australia, but it largely omits the organisational and cultural context of mental health. As such, the book will be popular with those whose perspectives it reinforces, but it misses some important OHS and research perspectives about harm prevention.

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Analysis of business impacts of COVID19

The Australian Industry Group recently released the results of a survey of its members about how COVID19 has affected their businesses. Understandably, the financial future of the businesses is the major concern but occupational health and safety (OHS) has been part of the business responses.

OHS was part of the initial scrabble to cope with the localised effects of a global pandemic. The report says

“Increased workloads due to new OH&S and healthcare procedures were still being reported by 6% of businesses in August, down from a high of 25% in the first stages of the pandemic in March. In Victoria, 10% of businesses reported concerns about the increase in this type of workload in August, compared with 2% in New South Wales and no businesses in Queensland.”

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WFH strategies and evidence

Last week’s article on the occupational health and safety (OHS) risks of Working From Home (WFH) reminded me of a report from late 2019 that I always meant to write about but forgot. In November 2019 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released a report called Telework in the 21st century: An evolutionary perspective. It ‘s a collection of articles on teleworking from around the world and, although it is pre-COVID19, it remains fairly contemporary on telework and WFH practices and risks.

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No OHS voice in this paper

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has always been part of the politics of industrial relations (IR) but it has rarely understood which part it plays as it has never really stood on its own two feet. In Australia, OHS advocates have been, primarily, from within the trade union movement. And for OHS professionals that was okay, as it allowed us to stay within our box, having others fight our battles. When those others weren’t as successful as we wanted, we remained content with the small achievements because they were achieved with minimal effort from us.

Australia, as it emerges from the COVID19 pandemic, is hoping to bring the camaraderie shared by the business groups, government and trade union to a new consensual IR strategy. OHS is an historical element of this discussion, but it needs to be more, and an OHS analysis of the Australian Industry Group’s IR reform paper released on June 6 2020 (but not yet publicly) may provide some clues on what to do about OHS influence.

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Is it OK to lie to your employer while working from home?

[Guest Post] By Simon Longstaff (reproduced with permission from Crikey)

Each week, The Ethics Centre’s executive director Dr Simon Longstaff will be answering your ethics questions [in Crikey]. This week:

“ My employer sent me a questionnaire designed to test if my home working environment meets basic standards. If I’d answered truthfully I would have ‘failed’ the test. But what’s the point in telling the truth when I have to work at home in any case? Was it wrong to lie on the form?”

Although this ethical issue seems to fall on you — as the person receiving the survey — it actually starts with your employer’s decision to request this information in the first place.

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The health and safety of working from home

Idealised image of what Working From Home could look like.

The second of a series of articles based on support from academics at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) focusses on the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues related to Working From Home (WFH), a situation that many Australians face at the moment.

SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions on WFH to ACU and Dr Trajce Cvetkovski, senior lecturer in the Peter Faber Business School and below are his thoughts.

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