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 per cent 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.
Forty-two (42) per cent 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 per cent) 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 per cent of respondents in WA said their employers do not always send sick employees home, compared with 51 per cent of Queensland respondents, 50 per cent of NSW respondents and 47 per cent of ACT respondents.
Employees in Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia also reported receiving the most unrealistic KPIs from management: 37 per cent of respondents in these states reported that this was a significant cause of stress, compared with just 27 per cent 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, they 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.”
SAI Global reveals its six tips for how 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.
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 in relation to others. It will also help to prevent burnout – which is also in the employer’s best interests.
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. It’s vital they 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.
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.
Reward good work
Fulfilling careers are built on good experiences, and so employers should ensure they reward their workers on their individual 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.
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.