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New workplace code highlights the strain of insecure work

Edith Cowan University has helped shape a new WA Government initiative which makes the State the first in Australia to have a code of practice protecting the mental wellbeing of workers who don’t enjoy standard employment conditions and protections.

The Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety today revealed its new Code of Practice on Psychosocial Hazards in the Workplace to provide guidance on how to deal with challenging workplace issues.

A submission from ECU’s Centre for Work + Wellbeing (CW+W) on casual, contract, seasonal, freelance and gig workers has been incorporated into the Code.

CW+W director Professor Tim Bentley said it was important for those with insecure work to be protected.

“Insecure work, such as casual work, labour hire, and the gig economy, forms a significant part of today’s workforce,” Professor Bentley said.

“This work can exacerbate existing psychosocial hazards and introduce new ones.

“The inclusion of insecure work as a psychosocial hazard in the Code is very welcome. This is an important addition, as the nature of work and employment is changing.”

A widespread issue

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports 2.3 million Australian workers have no paid leave entitlements, while 24 per cent of WA employees are in casual employment.

Professor Bentley said many psychosocial hazards are intrinsic to the nature of non-standard employment.

“For example, casual workers suffer from job insecurity as they can lose their job with only a few hours’ notice,” he said.

“This can be stressful for employees and can also mean they have a high workload and work pace.

“In Australia, 53 per cent of casual workers have earnings and hours which fluctuate from one pay cycle to another.

“Casual workers can legally be given unpredictable hours, so their work schedule can by definition be a psychosocial hazard.”

Other hazards identified for workers with insecure employment include a lack of decision-making on work-related matters, lack of career progression and less confidence to stand up to inappropriate conditions or treatment.

“We know that psychosocial risk factors such as high workload, high pace of work, lack of career development, and poor organisational culture can lead to mental or physical ill-health for all workers, but their negative impacts can be intensified under insecure work conditions,” Professor Bentley said.

Putting it into practice

Despite welcoming the new Code acknowledging insecure workers, Professor Bentley stressed it was only the first step of a much larger process.

“It’s one thing for insecure work to be included in the Code, but it’s another thing for organisations and governments to take these issues seriously, he said.

“It is important that we see more action taken to make workplaces safer for all workers.

“Employers should take special care to mitigate the hazards of non-standard employment by giving as much notice of shifts as possible, giving workers predictability with their shifts, and increasing the rate of pay for these workers to offset the effect of some of these hazards.”

Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry. He's also an advocate for global cyber security matters.

Matthew Giannelis
Matthew Giannelis
Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry. He's also an advocate for global cyber security matters.

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