Workplace 'health' and safety means mental health too

IN A time when workplace health and safety is a paramount consideration for each employer, there has been considerable acknowledgement of the need to promote not only good physical health and safety, but also good mental health.

Employee wellbeing is becoming more and more important, and there has been greater recognition of the need to treat staff correctly.

What we have noticed in our employment law practice is that we are increasingly assisting employers in establishing policies and procedures to give effect to the essential rights of employees and offer an explanation of the employer's essential responsibilities to ensure employers are being proactive in assisting employees in managing their health so far as it affects their employment.

They are conversations at work that no one looks forward to having. Whether it is in relation to consistently getting back late from lunch, taking excessive personal phone calls, or increased absenteeism, more often than not there is an underlying issue involved.

Even if there is negative feedback to deliver, a procedure being in place to ensure the feedback is given and support is offered immediately (along with an offer to provide training or resources where appropriate) can make all the difference and certainly (if delivered in an appropriate manner) create a positive outcome for the employer and employee alike.

Having a sound policy in place that creates a consistent approach to dealing with issues surrounding performance helps employers to take the emotion out of the equation.

Having the policy and procedure in place is not enough though. Employers also need to make sure it is published and training is provided to those who are affected by it. And all of this starts with employers understanding where their responsibilities start and end.

* Elspeth Ledwy is a senior associate with Kelly Legal and can be contacted on elspeth.ledwy@kellylegal.com.au or at kellylegal.com.au.


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