Work Health and Safety

Managing the End of Year Christmas Party – and the Aftermath

A quick Google search for career ending moves at the work Christmas Party may be an amusing exercise. However, at this time of the year it serves as a timely and educative reminder to both employers and employees that poor management, planning and behaviour can make the annual Christmas festivities, and their aftermath, a very sobering experience indeed. In our experience these events are notorious for being a potential breeding ground for inappropriate workplace behaviour and may put employers at risk of litigious actions such as sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.

WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY FOR LABOUR HIRE

Labour hire is a valuable and commercially necessary engagement model for workers, particularly for specific industries such as construction, warehousing, retail and mining. These industries usually prefer labour hire as they are subject to fluctuations in workloads due to seasonal demands and additional or delayed projects.

Even though labour hire has many benefits for the host employer and the labour hire worker, it has been the subject of much controversy over the past few years. This has been as a result of the poor treatment and pay of labour hire workers and the undefined responsibilities between the host employer and the labour hire agency (including in relation to wages, entitlements and Work Health and Safety (“WHS”)).

Domestic Violence and Mental Health – Why They Are Workplace Issues!

In the last week alone, the world has seen more than 30 people brutally murdered in mass shooting in the USA. In that regard, the American National Institute of Justice has conducted a recent study in which it has examined every shooting incident at schools, workplaces and places of worship since 1999. As a result of the study, it found that in the majority of mass shooting cases, early childhood trauma including exposure to domestic abuse and violence at a young age was a prevalent issue. The nature of such exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to the development of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

EMPLOYERS DUTY OF CARE – HOW FAR DOES IT GO?

We hear the words “duty of care” used commonly but in terms of an employment relationship, what does this really mean for employers and how far does the duty really go? By way of introduction, there are a number of duties that are owed by an employer to an employee. These include, but are not limited to:

The duty to provide competent staff;
The duty to provide a safe place to work;
The duty to provide proper and adequate materials; and
The duty to provide a safe system of work and supervision.

What to do in the Case of a Serious Accident at Work

Employers are required to ensure the work health and safety of workers while at work. Not only is work health and safety within the workplace a legal requirement for employers, but workplace injuries can have a significant impact on a business and severe consequences for all workplace participants. Significant workplace injuries can have a lasting negative effect on the business through reduced productivity, lost clients, low staff morale, traumatised staff and the associated reputational costs.

Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace

The implementation of workplace drug and alcohol testing is a sensitive and complex issue. It is not uncommon for employers in certain industries such as mining, transportation and correctional services, to impose mandatory alcohol and illicit drugs testing for all employees, however careful consideration needs to be given to the corresponding legal obligations owed by an employer vis-à-vis the employees’ privacy and safety. More and more often, the industrial Courts and Tribunals routinely accept that random testing in the workplace is an intrusion on the privacy of the individual and are reluctant to condone such practices other than on genuine health and safety grounds.

Are you okay? Supporting Mental Health and Domestic Abuse Survivors at Work?

As many of our readers would be aware, the second Thursday of September in each year, is a national day dedicated to asking family, friends and colleagues the simple question: “Are you okay?”. Given that Thursday 8 September has just gone by, and in light of growing global awareness of depression and suicide, mental health issues and domestic or family abuse, we thought it would be fitting to write a client alert about this topic.

Part 2: Dealing with Ill and Injured Employees – Practical Tips

In last week’s client alert we discussed the significant issue for employers of dealing with a long-term ill or injured employee. As was noted in the article, most employers in our experience generally want to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with employees who are ill or injured and are unable to return to full time pre-injury employment. This however needs to be balanced against the interests of the business, and in some cases it is simply impractical for the employment to continue. In those circumstances, it is however not simply a matter of dismissing the employee on the basis of the injury or illness for which they have been absent from the workplace.

Dealing with Ill and Injured Employees: Independent Medical Examinations – Do Employers Have the Right to a Second Opinion?

It might surprise some of our readers but one of the most difficult employment issues for any employer to deal with, is a long term ill or injured employee. There is a significant amount of confusion and lack of understanding regarding the rights of both the employee and the employer in these circumstances. Most employers want to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with employees who are ill or injured and are unable to return to full time pre-injury employment, but need to balance the interests of the employee with the needs of the business.

WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY – WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

For many employers operating in professional services and non-industrial industries, the concept of work health and safety is, let’s face it, not thought of as a particularly significant workplace issue. Occupational awareness and the maintenance of safe work systems and practices is, however, not only applicable to heavy industries and those where workers are working with dangerous machinery and equipment. Unfortunately, some employers learn the hard way that the work health and safety laws in Australia are expansive and can be incredibly powerful in circumstances of noncompliance. As is often the case, a fairly minor safety breach or incident is enough to expose an unsafe workplace, and can result in the employer becoming the subject of a safety audit by the regulator, who under the Work Health and Safety legislation has a number of enforcement options available to it.

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