NSW has become the latest state to introduce new legislation increasing the consequences for employers who fail to abide by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. This is following the federal Government’s introduction of the ‘Closing Loopholes’ legislation, which had a significant workplace health and safety component that proposed laws such as:
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Mental health has been a hot topic in our society generally over the past few years, especially after we started to emerge from the pandemic induced lockdowns. These trends in society have been mirrored recently by regulatory bodies across Australia creating various safety regulations, frameworks and codes of practice, meaning that employers now have much more responsibility surrounding mental health risk factors in their workplaces.
With the recent flooding across many parts of Australia, there will be plenty of businesses that are impacted and many of which will be unable to open. So what are the employer’s responsibilities towards their employees?
Most employers will already be aware of the need for flexibility during the crisis and its aftermath in relation to supporting employees during the clean up, difficulties they may face in attending work, providing time off for participation in any emergency services duties, etc. This is of course in the context of their business being able to re-open as quickly as possible and to resume normal business operations.
In 2020 and 2021, businesses were forced into a reactive approach to COVID-19, having to quickly implement work from home processes, putting together COVID-19 safety plans and assessing COVID-19 vaccination strategies and policies in quick succession.
As with the normal workplace, the employer has a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure employee safety and health and to provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination. Inappropriate behaviour at staff functions, which can be attributed to “good cheer” which often accompany these social events, can lead to employers being held liable.
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