The Psychosocial Hazards Code of 2022 has been rolling out over the states for a while now. Effective 1st April 2023, it was made law in Queensland. That means that the aspects of the code which were recommended are now law, and I’m sure will open up some employees to make claims.
The Psychosocial Hazards Code covers a number of different areas, including:
- High (or low!) job demands
- Challenging work hours, including shifts or unplanned overtime
- Low job control – which I will talk about more further
- Poor support
- Low role clarity
- Poor workplace relationships, including how co-workers treat staff
- Poor organisational change management
- Poor organisation justice, including bias, favouritism and nepotism.
- Low recognition and reward.
For some of you, maybe you’re thinking:
Category 1: ‘What’s the fuss about? We do all this; it’s just good business (and people) management!’.
Category 2: ‘Jeez – even more burden for business and being dictated to even more by the current Government. Staff get their paycheque; want more do I have to do!?’ OR
Category 3: ‘Hmmm, maybe I’m not doing everything exactly right, but I want to and I should look into this more.’
If you’re in category 1 then perhaps it’s just a case of revision of your systems and just refreshing everything is still being covered well. Well done; sounds like you’re an employer that team will seek to work for.
If you’re in category 2 then the reality is that you don’t have a choice. Well, you do, stop employing Australian workers. May I recommend a mindset change; the reality is that most of these practices will actually benefit your business. It costs 1.5 times a person’s salary (on average) to replace them. It costs businesses in Australia billions of dollars in sick leave and absenteeism. High staff turnover can almost kill a business. Whether you’re doing it for the reason of improving your bottom line, or you care about your team, the fact is, you do need to change what’s happening in your organisation IF you are not meeting the code.
For those in category 3 – it sounds like a change in mindset isn’t needed; you just need to take the time (or get a little help) to expand your WH&S to go beyond the physical and encompass the mental and emotional side of workplace wellness.
There are a number of scenarios which are not good in the workplace. For example, staff may not have clear job roles (Positions Descriptions, or PDs). Not only does the person not know what they should or should not be doing, but tasks can be duplicated (overlap by another team member) or missed altogether. That can create frustrations (for staff, bosses and clients), inefficiencies, mistakes and potentially serious issues. I am constantly encouraging business coaching clients to have PD’s in their business; it helps with the recruitment process (getting clarity first on who you want exactly), it helps potential employees ascertain if they have the skills or the desire to do the job. It gives staff clarity around their roles and gives others in the team clarity around who is doing what. It will highlight also if a person has too few or too many tasks. If the list is 3 items long, either you’ve been too generalistic, or perhaps the role has too little in it, is potentially boring or overly repetitive. Likewise, if the PD is 5 pages long; you might be asking yourself ‘when is this person reasonably going to get everything done? Do we really need two people for this job?’
When it comes to support, again some staff are left to ‘fend for themselves’ and are not provided support. COVID-19 saw a lot of this; with staff in isolation. Not getting feedback, or even not having clear guidelines (systems and processes) on how tasks should be done. If someone gets stuck, who can they ask? It’s not just about having someone to ask questions of, but more importantly, knowing who that person is and ensuring they are actually available. I am frequently helping my clients to set up systems and processes so that staff have guidelines about expectations and processes.
Having systems and processes in place is one thing, but it’s also great to involve your team in this process. This leads into not only good change management practices, but if team are involved, they are more likely to have ‘ownership’ of the practices. Change management is about good communication, and getting their feedback. It doesn’t automatically mean you have to do everything they suggest, but you should listen. I used to have 25 staff in my prior business and I will say some exceptional ideas came from my team. They were in there, doing the job and had best knowledge on how things would work most effectively, for the business, for clients and for them. Good communication is critical in a team. It’s not just about efficiency or effectiveness, but it also means your team feel valued and their input appreciated.
Encapsulated in this is bullying and abuse. This has been around for a long time, although you might have noticed (particularly since COVID-19) signs and messages up in businesses saying that there is a zero acceptance of abuse to staff. As an employer, it’s not just your responsibility to ensure other staff don’t abuse your team, but also clients or customers.
So, where to from here? Below are some great links which you might find helpful. I would recommend you:
- Review the new code and what’s included; educate yourself first
- Assess where your risks may lay
- Communicate with your team – get their feedback
- Implement, review or update your systems and processes including staff reviews, PDs etc.
- Potentially implement further processes
- Amend, eliminate, or phase out areas which you know breach the code
- Educate managers, supervisors and team leaders (and your team generally)
- Consider control measures (questionnaires, check-ins etc)
- Update your documents, communication and systems with what you learn.
We have all heard the expression that ‘prevention is better than a cure’. There really isn’t a lot in this Code which isn’t simply good practice for having a team. Another phrase ‘a happy worker is a productive worker’ comes to mind. However, the difference now is that it’s law.
If a team member lodges a complaint, it will come back to documentation to defend yourself. Sure, they may well interview other employees, but good systems and processes will help, including:
- Policies and procedures
- PDs, team reviews, training matrix and schedules
- Feedback processes.
One example I saw was that if a staff member complains of being expected to work super long hours, then things like a log of emails, timesheets or texts from the boss will be reviewed. If your staff are emailing at all hours, or you (the boss) are texting them nights and weekends, or setting unreasonable task deadlines – then that’s all ammunition for the employee’s claim. Alternatively, they might not complain, but simply resign. Neither is a good outcome!
Other items will be harder to assess; such as a team member being a little ‘blue’ or ‘flat’ or ‘despondent’ then that comes back to you (or your managers or even other team, because that’s the culture of your business) to check in with that person and ask the question ‘Are you ok?’.
As an Accredited Mental Health First Aider, experienced business coach and life coach, I know we (both you and I) are not qualified (unless you are) to provide a diagnosis or manage people’s more serious mental health issues. We can, however, help improve workplace stress, unpleasant workplace situations, bullying, overwork, underwork, communication, change management and more. A lot of this is showing a care factor, having good practices in place and being proactive.
Here is a connection to some great links and resources.
The following links you might find useful. The People at Work site has an excellent questionnaire for staff, available free online if you employ over 20 staff, or you can download the printable version (or if you’re a client of mine, just ask, I have a copy).
If you are a client of mine and would like to talk about this more in your business, just ask.