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WHS Psychosocial Regulations: Do employers have a duty of care for mental health at work?

Mental Health in the Workplace

M‍ental health at work is a key factor affecting a person’s overall psychosocial health. That is, a person’s ability to manage stress or anxiety and have overall healthy and stable mental health. Healthy individuals with good psychosocial health are resilient and able to adapt to different circumstances in life.

Work is not just about providing people with a source of income – it should also offer opportunities for personal fulfillment and social interaction. But all too often this isn’t the case. In fact, the nature of work is having an increasingly negative impact on people’s psychosocial health, leading to high levels of stress and isolation among workers.

To help combat these issues, the NSW Workplace Health and Safety Regulation has been updated with new WHS standards that address employees’ mental health in the workplace. These changes come into effect from 1st October 2022. Read on to know what you need to know about these changes.

 What is the purpose of the new WHS regulations?

The new WHS regulations are designed to help all employers foster a positive, healthy workplace culture to protect their employees’ psychosocial health. This means making sure your employees are supported by management, that steps are taken to identify and manage psychosocial risks and that employees have access to the right resources to cope with stress.

The new regulations have been updated to reflect the changing nature of work, as well as more recent findings in the field of occupational psychology. These new changes were introduced to address issues around isolation, workplace stress, and lack of autonomy in the workplace.

 What are the key changes to mental health in the workplace?

The new WHS regulations have an increased focus on management’s duty of care in relation to mental health in the workplace. This includes new control measures to eliminate or minimise psychosocial risks including giving consideration to:

  • the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and other persons to the psychosocial hazards, and how the psychosocial hazards may interact or combine, and
  • the design of work, including job demands and tasks, and
  • the systems of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported, and
  • the design and layout, and environmental conditions, of the workplace, including the provision of—
    • safe means of entering and exiting the workplace, and
    • facilities for the welfare of workers, and
  • the design and layout, and environmental conditions, of workers’ accommodation, and
  • the plant, substances and structures at the workplace, and
  • workplace interactions or behaviours, and
  • the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.

This means providing your workers with the resources they need to stay healthy and happy at work. In addition to traditional workplace safety obligations, the new regulations also outline employer obligations when it comes to managing workplace stress. Employers must take reasonable steps to minimise workplace stress, and also provide resources to help employees manage it.

Protecting employees’ mental health in the workplace

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to poor psychosocial health. Employers have a duty to create a safe and supportive work environment that minimises stresses related to work. This means providing tools and resources to support employees in reducing their stress levels.

The best way to know whether your employees are feeling supported or experiencing high levels of stress is by getting feedback from them. Make it a regular part of your management style to ask your employees for their thoughts and suggestions about the workplace.

A key contributor to workplace stress is the lack of healthy interpersonal relationships among colleagues. The best way to combat this is to actively foster healthy workplace relationships between your employees. Make sure that your managers are setting the right example and taking part in social interaction in the office. Appropriate procedures supported by disciplinary actions must be in place to manage anti-social behaviours like bullying and harassment.

 How to promote employee wellbeing

The best way to promote mental health in the workplace is to make sure they have plenty of opportunities to connect with one another. Try to make social interaction a regular part of the office culture, whether it’s in the form of company outings or casual Friday drinks.

Not all stress is avoidable. But there are ways to make it easier to deal with. Employers need to provide their workers with the tools and resources necessary to help them manage stress. This could be in the form of a regular meditation class or a mindfulness corner in the office. A healthy work environment is essential to protecting your employees’ mental health in the workplace. This means having positive attitudes in the office, and creating opportunities for social interaction that go beyond just the 9 to 5 work schedule.

Letting your employees know that you’re willing to help them manage their stress is a great first step. But you also need to make sure you have the appropriate resources to do so. Consider offering mental health resources in the office, such as meditation classes or therapy sessions.

 Offer flexible working conditions

One of the best ways to promote mental health in the workplace is to offer flexible working conditions. Although this doesn’t directly affect psychosocial health, it does have a positive effect on employee satisfaction and retention. Most businesses can benefit from giving their workers more freedom over their schedules. This could include offering remote work opportunities or flexible hours.

 Create a supportive workplace culture

Employees who feel excluded from the work environment are more likely to experience high levels of stress. This is why it’s important to make sure your workers feel like they have a place at the office, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Open communication is essential for creating a supportive workplace culture. It allows for constructive criticism, and helps to identify issues before they escalate into bigger problems. Creating regular opportunities for your employees to share feedback and suggestions is a great way to promote communication.

 Conclusion

Effective management of mental health in the workplace can help people have happy and fulfilling lives. If your employees are struggling with stress or feeling unsupported at work, it will impact their personal lives, as well as their productivity in the office. The new WHS regulations make it clear that employers have a duty to manage mental health in the workplace. This means creating a positive work environment, and providing the tools and resources your employees need to thrive.

A copy of the new WHS regulations can be found here: WHS Regulations Ammendment 2022

For further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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