A massive paradigm shift and a new conceptual approach to workplace mental health hazards is about to be established by law in Australian workplaces.
What has already begun and what will continue to be implemented are laws and regulations at both Federal and State levels, requiring employers to implement comprehensive and systemic measures to minimise threats to the psychosocial well-being of employees.
The impetus for these changes has come mostly from the AHRC report Respect@Work (dealing primarily with sexual harassment) which embraced the notion that sexual harassment is inherently a fundamental breach of workplace obligations.
Furthermore, the Commission recommended that the law impose a duty on employers to minimise the occurrence of sexual harassment and assaults in their workplaces and all extended work activities.
But the threats to employees’ psychosocial well-being are much broader and arise from a host of potential sources. And indeed, these multifarious threats to the mental health of employees will be explicitly recognised in the new legislation.
In short, the Australian laws dealing with mental risks in the workplace will shift from a compliance mode to a proactive mode requiring employers to embed a workplace culture that is not harmful or threatening—a culture that is respectful, inclusive, and psychologically safe at every level of the organisation.