|Victoria is planning to introduce long promised regulations, now in the final stages of consultation. The OHS (Psychological Health) Regulations (PHRegs) are proposed to commence on 1 July 2022.
The proposed amendments will provide guidance to employers on their obligations to protect workers from mental injury. They make it clear that hazards posing a risk to psychological health are as harmful to worker health and well-being as physical hazards.
They will apply to any employer that has 50 or more employees and will include new definitions to support employers’ understanding of psychosocial hazards.
The definitions include:
Examples of these issues include: Bullying, sexual harassment, aggression or violence, exposure to traumatic events or content, high job demands, low job demands, low job control, poor support, poor organisational justice, low role clarity, poor environmental conditions, remote or isolated work, poor organisational change management, low recognition and reward, poor workplace relationships.
The PHRegs impose the standard approach under the OHS Act to the identification, assessment, and control of risks, modified as necessary to address the different nature of psychosocial risks.
They will also set out requirements for employers:
It is proposed there will be reporting requirements for applicable employers and new penalties for failure to comply with certain duties. Penalties of approximately $54,000 will apply to a body corporate and $11,000 to individuals.
While there will be a moratorium on fines under the PHRegs for a short time to give businesses time to adjust, this relates only to the specific requirements of the PHRegs. WorkSafe will still have the power to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) for non-compliance with the PHRegs during this period. It will no doubt carry out a series of focussed inspections during this transitional educational phase. An employer’s primary obligations under the OHS Act still apply to mental health claims, bullying, sexual harassment and workplace aggression (and to report Notifiable Incidents under the current Act and OHS Regs 2017). The Plan and other actions required by the PHRegs will clearly need to be integrated into existing policies for these and other mental health concerns.
The above is a brief summary.
What should you do?
Submissions closed 31 March 2022. A total of 79 public submissions were received and are available to view here. There may be additional submissions marked confidential which have not been published.
As the PHRegs are finalised Justitia can help you with a review of your psychosocial risk assessment and the amendment of or creation of any complementary policies such as bullying and sexual harassment.
WorkSafe has advised it will be producing guidance and Compliance Codes to assist business.