Guidance on new mental health requirements for businesses

Businesses should be aware of significant changes regarding the mitigation and management of ‘psychosocial’ incidents in the workplace that may arise from mental health issues

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Regulating psychological hazards has been in the spotlight for some time at both a state and federal level. Navigating this complex issue remains an ongoing challenge.

Compliance can be confusing and daunting, particularly as consequences for a breach can range from fines to criminal charges.

The Victorian Chamber’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing consultants understand how much time and effort it can take to navigate the evolving regulatory framework. It’s a commitment that often requires the help of an expert practitioner.

To assist in this space, the Victorian Chamber is hosting an upcoming Mental Health in the Workplace webinar series.

More information is available below, along with tips on how you can act now and get on top of mental health compliance.

Why are changes being introduced?

Because there is a real need to safeguard the mental health of staff and tackle mental health risks in a meaningful and proactive manner.

Statistically, mental injury claims are increasing. Over the past five years, claims have increased more than 20 per cent in Victoria and are expected to grow.

The average time off work for a mental injury is over 15 weeks, while the average duration of a claim is over 37 weeks – double the average of any other claim. The average cost of a mental injury claim is approximately $220,000, more than doubling over the last decade.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health released its report into the state of Mental Health management in February 2021. It highlighted the need to improve education and awareness on psychological health, and to build safe and healthy workplaces.

What are the changes?

The proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations 2021 aim to reduce psychological hazards and injuries in the workplace, requiring employers to assess, monitor and mitigate in the same way they would a physical hazard.

The proposed regulations will impose new duties specifically relating to psychological health. The duties will require businesses to proactively manage and mitigate psychological hazards and include an obligation to: identify hazards; implement risk controls; develop a prevention plan; and, where appropriate, report on psychological health data.

What obligations will businesses have to comply with?

The regulation’s Compliance Code is still under consultation. Our expert team is watching this space closely. Based on the current draft, there are a few steps a business will need to take, including:

  • Psychological hazard identification
  • Compliance gap analysis
  • Psychological risk register
  • Psychological risk training

The Victorian Chamber’s expert team of Health, Safety and Wellbeing Consultants can help you with all or any of these steps. Importantly, you can act now.

What should businesses be doing now?

When it comes to risk, it isn’t a case of set and forget. If a business truly wants to improve the psychological health of its staff, proactive management of risk must be an ongoing priority.

We recommend businesses take insights from the psychological hazard identification and perform a gap analysis to develop a tailored action plan. This can include assessing the nature and extent of the training required. It can also lead to a review, redraft, or refresh of relevant policies.

Businesses may also think about how they can work with leadership teams and staff to have certainty and clarity around expectations. Many issues start small and are often ignored before escalating.

Managing psychological risks means ensuring businesses culture, values and staff behaviour are understood. You can conduct workshops or coaching sessions to ensure appropriate behavioral standards are understood and complied with.

Businesses will need to revisit the tools used to assess risks and evaluate if the actions imposed have had a positive impact. If they haven’t, it’s time to re-evaluate. If they have, it’s important to remember it’s an ongoing obligation.

How can I learn more about the proposed regulations and business obligations?

The Victorian Chamber has a team of experienced health, safety and wellbeing consultants actively involved in discussions on the impending Compliance Code, so they are best placed to give you relevant and practical information.

Our consultants can help you build a clear pathway to psychological hazard and risk mitigation.

The Victorian Chamber’s Mental Health in the Workplace webinars, on Friday 24 June and Tuesday 28 June 2022, will help you understand the proposed regulations and how you can proactively manage psychological risks, covering:

  • What is a psychological hazard?
  • What obligations will the proposed regulations impose?
  • What steps can businesses take now to identify and manage psychological hazards?
  • Practical tips and considerations

The Victorian Chamber also hosts a range of courses to ensure business leaders and managers are equipped to manage signs of poor mental health. Visit the VCCI website for courses on:

  • Managing Mental Health in the Workplace
  • Mental Health Fundamentals for Employees
  • Mental Health Fundamentals for Managers
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Blended Online Mental Health First Aid

If you are keen to act now and take steps to manage mental health risks or need any health, safety and wellbeing support, reach out to our team of expert Health, Safety and Wellbeing Consultants by email on hse@victorianchamber.com.au or call 03 8662 5333.

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