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Why unstable work is ultimately perceived as a health hazard for some Australians

Credit: The Conversation

About 3 million Australian workers lack employment security. Estimated 2.4 million— 20% to 25% of the total workforce — are temporary workers and are not eligible for paid leave.Moreover 500,000 I have a fixed-term contract.


Whether you are a worker working for a worker employment company, a checkout operator, a rideshare driver, or a college instructor with a casual contract, work anxiety can harm your physical and mental health. There is sex.

First in Australia, Western Australia officially recognized this in its new Practice Code for Psychosocial Hazard in the WorkplaceProvides practical guidance on how WA workplaces can comply with their obligations under state obligations. Industrial Safety and Health Act 1984

Psychosocial hazards are social and organizational factors that can cause psychosocial or physical harm. In terms of work, it is all about designing and managing work that can cause stress.

Better recognition of such dangers in 2018 Borland Review It is incorporated into the “model” laws, regulations and norms that underpin the unity between the Australian state and territory occupational health and safety regimes.

Australian Federal, State, and Territory Ministers agreed to this recommendation in May 2021. Since then, most states and territories have updated their regulatory or compliance codes.

So far, only Western Australia contains unsafe work. It’s a step in the right direction. However, for real progress, all states and territories need to follow suit. Then you need to follow up the law to protect your safer work.

What are the psychosocial dangers in the workplace?

List of World Health Organizations 10 Psychosocial Dangers at Work.. These cover issues such as high job content uncertainty, lack of control, lack of support, and job uncertainty.

Prolonged exposure to these risks increases the risk of acute and severe mental or physical injury.

our Of the center Submission to the Government of Western Australia — Recommended to include unsafe work in new ones code— Most of the above 10 hazards are closely related to unsafe work.

For example, hazard number 3 (a work schedule that includes unpredictable hours) applies to the majority of temporary workers in Australia. 53% are working hours (Therefore, income) It fluctuates from one payment cycle to the next.

Employment insecurity exacerbates hazards that affect permanent employees, such as workload (hazard 1), lack of job management (hazard 4), and lack of career opportunities (hazard 10).

Deterioration of health and safety

More and more studies show that precarious work is harmful to health.

Two leading Australian experts in the field, Michael Quinlan of UNSW Sydney and Elsa Underhill of Deakin University, Senate Survey on Employment Security There are three main negative consequences:

  • High incidence / frequency of injuries, including fatalities
  • Deterioration of physical and mental health (bullying, etc.)
  • Insufficient knowledge and access to employment rights and low willingness to raise concerns.

Fear of losing a job is a powerful impediment to complaining about or using the rights they have available. for example, 2021 survey Of the 1,540 workers found by the Australian Council of Trade Unions:

  • Forty percent of unsafe workers say they worked when they were sick because they did not have access to paid leave.
  • 67% of people who worked sick instead of taking vacations said they were afraid that taking vacations would affect their work (compared to 55% of full-time workers).
  • Fifty percent of people who were sexually harassed did nothing because they were afraid of negative consequences (compared to 32% of full-time workers).

Is the Code of Conduct legally enforceable?

The Code of Conduct is part of a three-tiered framework that regulates employers’ obligations to maintain a safe workplace.

At the top is the law, which broadly defines responsibilities, regulations, and codes of conduct. These codes are practical guides for industry and enterprise on how to meet the standards required under regulation.

The code does not have the same legal effect as regulation, but can be used by courts to assess whether an organization has taken the “reasonable measures” required by law to ensure a safe workplace. ..

Some codes relate to certain types of work or hazards, such as the handling of dangerous chemicals. The new WA Code for Psychosocial Hazards applies to all workplaces.

From recognition to change

Including unsafe work in WA code will not change much in the short term.

Theoretically, it should mean that an organization that employs temporary or contract workers implements a risk assessment process and implements controls to manage those risks.

I have Risk management hierarchy With an occupational health and safety protocol.

The top is to eliminate risk. This will allow employers to convert the same number of employees to permanent positions.

Lowering the hierarchy reduces the risk. This is by giving temporary workers as many shift notices as possible to increase schedule predictability and income stability, or by increasing wage rates to partially compensate for some of these risks. You can do it.

Do these things happen? Probably not. In reality, the norms of practice alone do not change. For example, provisions that provide a route for temporary or fixed-term workers to reach permanent positions already exist in many corporate contracts, but employers often find ways to avoid respecting them. ..

Real change requires legislative reform or strengthening of union power.

Some countries in EuropeFor example, there are currently legislation that limits the number of dispatched and fixed-term workers. Such legislation also needs to be backed up by enforcement mechanisms, especially significantly increased resources for regulatory agencies.

The Government of Western Australia’s new code of conduct represents an important first step in the outlook for Australian labor relations. Formally recognizing precarious work as a health hazard should serve as a spur for further reforms.

Unsafe work is widespread. We know what’s wrong with it. It’s time to do more about it.


The truth about many “casual” jobs: it’s really about lasting anxiety


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Why unstable work is ultimately perceived as a health hazard for some Australians

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