Six tips for how employers can look after the health and wellbeing of their workplaces

BY Australian Retailers Association
10 February 2020

Concerning new data from a leading workplace safety auditing and training, organisation has revealed that Australian workplaces are not prioritising employee health. 1 in 2 workers have admitted their bosses don’t send sick employees home, 2 in 5 have said work overload and stress is rife, and 1 in 3 have said inadequate training is provided.

The survey of 1008 Australians was conducted by SAI Global, which has audited and trained thousands of organisations seeking to meet international standards for workplace health and safety, in addition to the relevant Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation in each State.

From the survey, SAI Global found that 52% of respondents say their employer does not always send employees home when they present with sicknesses that may impact on other workers. This is despite the model WHS Act stating that it is a requirement of a person conducting or undertaking a business to ensure the health and safety of workers, and that all work is conducted without risk to the health and safety of other people.[1]

Forty-two (42%) of respondents also admitted that their workplace requires regular work overload and/or the need to rush tasks, resulting in significant employee stress. More than a third (35%) said their workplaces lack necessary training for their roles or that they get unrealistic KPIs from management – also a significant stressor.

WA has more self-reported workplace sickness rates than other states

Between the major States, it seems that organisations in Western Australia are least likely to send sick employees home: 59% of respondents in WA said their employers do not always send sick employees home, compared with 51% of Queensland respondents, 50% of NSW respondents and 47% of ACT respondents.

Employees in Western Australia, Victoria, and South Australia also reported receiving the most unrealistic KPIs from management: 37% of respondents in these states reported that this was a significant cause of stress, compared with just 27% of ACT respondents.

Rod Beath, workplace safety spokesperson at SAI Global, says, “Employers have a primary duty of care when it comes to the health and safety of workers – from observing all health and safety legislation, to ensuring that all work is conducted without risk to workers’ health and safety. However, our research shows that many employers are not meeting these basic responsibilities.

Rod says that organisations that are certified to the relevant WHS Act and the ISO 45001 Standard not only meet WHS legislative requirements, but they also set the benchmark for employee health and safety – which includes mental health. “When an organisation’s workplace is certified to the ISO 45001 international standard for occupational health and safety, they are committed to safety improvements within the workplace – which can include sickness relating to work-related stress or mental stress. The ISO 45001 Standard helps to foster an environment in which workers are regularly consulted and actively participate in matters concerning their health, safety and wellbeing.”

Here are a few ways employers can look after the health and wellbeing of their workplaces:

Promote an open and trusting management style and environment. Regular catchups between managers and staff, support and training programs, and return-to-work programs can go a long way in ensuring employees feel that their health and wellbeing is a workplace priority. Training managers to consider the mental wellbeing of staff also creates an environment where they feel safer and more comfortable.

2. Encourage work-life balance. Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment, and employers should look to offer flexible start and finish times so employees can fit in important lifestyle needs. This will give them a greater sense of agency over when they work, what they do, and how they can work concerning others. It will also help to prevent burnout – which is also in the employer’s best interests.

3. Create clear job roles and responsibilities. Change – especially when it threatens stable or comfortable routines – can be unsettling. If workers express anxiety about change, employers should remain transparent and honest about the process. They must provide clarity in a job description, too. Setting clear roles and responsibilities, especially formal ones, helps employees know what is expected of them and more closely aligns their roles with a company’s goals.

  1. Promote open communication and strong social networks. Employees thrive on friendships and good social interaction, so it is important to create a workplace where people enjoy coming to work. Having open communication, opportunities for team connectedness and social events, and celebrating wins and achievements, are the types of workplace ingredients that go into developing a mentally healthy workplace culture.
  2. Reward good work. Fulfilling careers are built on good experiences, and so employers should ensure they reward their workers on their efforts. This will improve employee satisfaction, making them feel supported and empowered in their roles. In turn, it will increase their productivity at work – especially if they are aware of how their efforts create an impact on the organisation.
  3. Engage workers in the formulation of wellness programs. It is extremely important that workers participate not just in the execution of a wellness program, but in its design. By involving them in the engagement process early, they will soon ‘walk the talk.’ Employers should also think about the particular needs of their workplace demographic. SAI Global has found that some of the best wellness programs have not started as a top-led initiative but as a bottom-up approach. This is usually with an employee who has a strong personal passion and is keen to grow this into a company-wide initiative.

To book an Occupational Health and Safety audit by SAI Global, visit: www.saiglobal.com.au/iso45001/

About SAI Global :SAI Global is a provider of integrated risk management solutions, assurance and property services. In Australia, SAI Global is largest provider of property information and settlement services. Underpinning all SAI Global’s solutions are proven and trusted business methodologies, powered by local expertise and know how. For more visit www.saiglobal.com.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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