Psychosocial Safety Update and Tools to Meet the Employer's Duties

Edge Legal

14 April 2023

Australia is once again very close to achieving ‘enhanced’ obligations to tackle psychosocial safety with specific regulations being recently introduced throughout the various jurisdictions.  Whilst strictly speaking, there have always been obligations to address psychosocial safety, these ‘clarifiers’ pave the way for more overt practical implementation.  Employers can anticipate a heightened compliance environment and expectations from their workforce for improved outcomes at the ‘coalface’.

Jurisdictional Differences

Only South Australia and the ACT out of the harmonised jurisdictions have not yet implemented regulations explicitly requiring PCBUs to tackle psychosocial risks through a risk management process.  NSW, Tasmania, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory have strictly followed the WorkSafe Australia model whilst Queensland and the Commonwealth jurisdiction made variations requiring duty holders to apply the hierarchy of controls to psychosocial risks.

Victoria is still not part of the harmonised jurisdictions and has its own regulations (not yet finalised but expected very soon).  There are likely to be some specific additional requirements for Employers in Victoria which include: preparing  written prevention plans for: aggression or violence, bullying, exposure to traumatic content or events, high job demands and sexual harassment and for employers with more than 50 employees providing a written report to WorkSafe Victoria (2 times per year) about reportable psychosocial complaints for aggression or violence, bullying, and sexual harassment and to keep a copy of the report for 5 years.

Recommended Approach – Best of the Best

Whilst the various differences in application of this duty amongst the jurisdictions are unhelpful to Employers from a compliance perspective, we recommend applying a generic approach adopting a ‘best of the best’ regardless of jurisdiction. This approach is more likely to place Employers in the ‘best practice’ category and should ease the administrative burden of multi-factor compliance.

To assist this process for our Retainer Clients only we have created a risk assessment tool which then flows into a prevention plan and reporting template.  The tool is a broad based document and covers off all jurisdictional requirements.  It can be further tailored to meet the needs of each employer.

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