Duty of Care in the Workplace

Over the last decade, we have seen duty of care responsibilities in the workplace dramatically evolve. Today duty of care clearly encompasses the legal obligation employers have to protect their employees from physical and psychological harm while performing work.

But how do we look after the psychological safety of our employees?

This is a new and developing field. So new in fact that the regulators are yet to share best practice on how to achieve this. But this does not let employers off the hook. The legal and moral responsibilities to provide a psychologically safe work environment and culture has never been more important.

Ashlee Berry, Member Services Director at Master Builders ACT said at our recent Mental Health Month webinar said that “WorkSafe has stated that low-level controls such as training in the area of mental health just won’t be enough.”

Carolyn Parish, Director of Workplace Wellbeing at OzHelp said at the heart of achieving a mentally friendly and psychologically safe environment is systematic risk management and workplace culture.

“Culture is a huge indicator of wellbeing, if staff are happy, engaged, and open it is an indicator that the workplace is creating a physically and mentally safe environment for its workers.”

Improving workplace culture can take time, but there’s no better time to get started.  Five ways to improve workplace culture can include:

  1. Informal staff catch ups: create regular toolbox talks, staff catch ups or morning teas to engage with staff and learn about what is happening on the ground.
  2. Staff surveys: Having a yearly, anonymous staff survey or pulse check is a great way to receive tangible data to see what areas of the business are going well or need improvement.
  3. Assessing staff turnover: A high staff turnover can often be an indication of a workplace culture issue. Be mindful of why people are leaving.
  4. Conducting exit interviews: Following on from point three, it is important to conduct exit interviews with staff so you can understand why that employee is leaving and if the issues they faced may be affecting other staff.
  5. Having open channels of communication: Management need to be approachable and open to conversations around mental health and wellbeing and be able to provide employees with support if needed. If your employees are willing to approach you and share what they are going through, that is a great indication that you are on the right track.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace does not happen overnight, it takes consistency and long-term commitment. Some advice Ashlee and Carolyn included:

  • Be genuine,
  • be prepared for good and bad feedback,
  • there is no one size fits all approach,
  • draw on research or talk to others about their approach,
  • have good connections with regulators, industry associations, and service providers that can support you, and
  • be kind to yourself.

To learn more about Duty of Care in the Workplace watch the full webinar presentation below:

Special thanks to our guest Ashlee Berry and our webinar partner Master Builders ACT.

For wellbeing and mental health support and training for your workplace, click here.

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