Victoria legislation changes to improve workplace psychological safety

As of 1 July 2022, the Victorian Government has proposed an occupational health and safety amendment. This amendment implements obligations that hold employers accountable for risk management in regard to employee mental health. This includes the identification of and management of psychological hazards in the workplace, and the application of prevention methods. 

What is Psychological safety?

Psychological safety is when people are able to be themselves without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or career. In psychologically safe teams, there is a shared belief that team members feel accepted and respected and expression of ideas, questions and concerns are encouraged.

What are psychological hazards?

Psychological hazards in the workplace can present themselves in many different ways, and they are often attributed to the way the workplace is organised. The general definition of these hazards include bullying, sexual harassment, violence, and aggression.

The more specific hazards defined in the amendment include lack of support or organisational justice, lack of role clarity, poor management, low recognition of achievement and rewards, and poor working relationships.

What does this mean for employers?

Best practice implementations will include the initial identification of current hazards in the workplace. This is then followed by a clear prevention plan to at very minimum reduce psychological risks, or eliminate them where possible. Employers with more than 50 employees will be required to provide WorkSafe Victoria with half-yearly reports about "reportable psychosocial complaints" received.

What does this mean for employees?

Working within a Psychologically Safe environment is proven to better the mental and physical health of employees. It creates a positive environment in which others have the ability to share ideas openly and participate within group discussions, resulting in lower levels of distress due to being able to share feelings and the reduction of interpersonal conflict. When an organisation properly prioritises psychological safety, employees feel seen, heard, and validated by the people that they work with and the organisation that they work for.

What are the potential consequences for workplaces that do not comply with the new legislation?

Until 1 September 2023, there will be a grace period for employers to get used to the new laws and become compliant. A ‘penalty unit’ is currently $181.74, and before 1 September 2023 there is a fine of 1 – 2 penalty units for a natural person and 6 penalty units for a body corporate. From 1 September 2023 the fine is 60 penalty units for a natural person and 300 penalty units for a body corporate. 300 penalty units represent a fine of over $50,000.

How chnnl can help?

Psychosocial risk assessments are often a key component missing from an organisation’s core strategic planning, however with this new legislation it's no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an absolute imperative. Talk to the team at chnnl today about the opportunity to work together on a psychosocial risk assessment for your workplace, and find meaningful solutions for your people.