Monday, 29 April 2024 10:38

Wellbeing programs & psychosocial hazards Featured

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Are wellbeing programs effective tools against psychosocial hazards?

Earlier this year, a significant UK research study sparked a wave of discussion on social media. The study's findings, which suggested that corporate wellbeing programs may not be as effective as previously thought, were met with both surprise and concern. While the research did indicate some positive outcomes from volunteering, it was unable to establish a clear link between corporate wellbeing programs and improved worker benefits.

The research findings triggered a range of reactions. Human Resources personnel and professionals, who had invested heavily in occupational wellbeing programs, expressed outrage, while many OHS individuals, who had long held suspicions about the effectiveness of such programs, found their concerns validated. This dichotomy of responses underscores the significance of the research and the potential implications for the future of corporate wellbeing.

Although many Australian jurisdictions have introduced a clear positive duty in their Work Health and Safety laws, the Victorian government is holding onto the set of laws that have been prepared for months and are sitting on the Minister’s desk.  This delay is prolonging the inevitable transition phase on laws that will require employers to prevent psychosocial hazards as far as is reasonably practicable.

Most Victorian employers remain confused about these new proposed obligations, preferring to wait until the laws appear before doing anything about psychosocial hazards.  This is regardless of their industry colleagues in other jurisdictions already being required to prevent psychosocial harm.  Those employers who are aware of these legislative changes, and they are very few, are often in denial.  To truly meet these new OHS obligations, they will likely need to change the way they work and the way they manage their workers, and this is frightening to many of them.

Of course, this OHS obligation to workers' mental health is not new. The psychological health of workers has been included in the OHS definition of health for many, many years in Victoria. It’s just that compliance was too hard; employers did not have the necessary tools, and they comfortably felt that their often expensive wellbeing programs were meeting the OHS law’s compliance standards. 

Wellbeing never did.  Wellbeing does not prevent harm, as the OHS laws require; it only helps manage it.  Wellbeing programs were comfortable and non-threatening.  Well, that sensation may be changing in Victoria, if, not when, the Minister puts the legislation to Parliament.  Don’t hold your breath.

Kevin Jones

Read 72 times Last modified on Monday, 29 April 2024 23:56
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