Risky Business – what does safety, operations and risk management look like for your business?

In a COVID normal world, what does workplace health, safety, operations, and risk management look like for your business?

This was the conversation at RCSA’s one-day Risky Business forum, presented in-person and online on April 29. The one-day event offered essential information to help operational and legal leads within member agencies to prepare their organisations for any unforeseen challenges in 2021.


The forum covered a range of topics from monitoring remote employees and privacy implications, health and safety, risk management and insurance, procurement and contract risks, a recruiter’s guide to vaccinations in the workplace, implications of casual employment changes as well as creating a mentally healthy workplace.


Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer for ELMO Software, asked how employers were supporting staff within four pillars of wellbeing - mental, physical, financial and social.


In her presentation “Taking the pulse of Australian Workplaces: New Challenges, New Priorities”, she said one positive to the disruptive events of 2020 was the renewed focus by employers on the safety and wellbeing of employees.


A survey of health professionals by ELMO, completed in partnership with the Australian Human Resources Institute, showed the top four HR priorities for businesses in 2021 were employee wellness, compliance, workplace health and safety and learning and development.


Monica said a wholistic approach to wellbeing was important, touching on the four pillars of health:


Physical health

Ensuring the physical health of all employees, regardless of their location. This includes ensuring safe returning-to-work policies are in place, conducting audits of home “work” environments, organising in-person and virtual physical activity classes, webinars on nutrition and healthy eating, contact tracing and wearable technology.


Financial Health

This might look like enhancing perks and benefits such as extending child-care support or offering health services subsidies.


Social Health

Encourage staff to interact and maintain meaningful work relationships. Consider adopting instant messaging platforms and video conferencing tools and instigating regular manager check-ins.


Mental Health

Some ways to support Mental Health initiatives and programs include introducing a chief wellbeing officer, cultivating a supportive environment and encouraging peer-to-peer support.


When focusing on mental wellness, Monica said it was important to reduce or avoid burnout. She identified a range of factors that can lead to burnout including unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, mismatched values and skills, lack of fairness, lack of supportive community and insufficient rewards for effort.


With an estimated one-third of the entire population currently experiencing burnout, Monica said it was important for leaders to encourage employees to take time off to address this. She also suggested asking “how are you doing” instead of “what are you doing” to encourage openness and sharing.


One of the highlights of the forum was the one-hour mock trial by Albert Giubin, a Senior Investigator and WHS specialist, and Bruce Whitehead, founder of Mock Court International and former Police Prosecutor.


The mock trial covered the case of a labour hire company who deployed a worker to a client’s warehouse and distribution centre. Six weeks later, the worker was directly involved in the death of a colleague. Following the coronial inquest, the labour hire company was charged under the OHS Act.


Three witnesses were tested in cross examination to determine what practical and legal risks were left unattended and the consequent exposures - both criminal and civil. The mock trial offered an insight into legal proceedings and the rigorous examination that happens.


Nick Tindley, partner and executive manager at FBC Group, gave an update on casual employment changes, which was particularly relevant in the current COVID climate.


In March, the Federal Government passed Schedules 1 and 7 of the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 through Parliament.


These contained a statutory definition of “casual employment”, a casual conversion pathway, and a fix to the double-dipping issue that was created by the Federal Court in WorkPac v Skene, and then later in WorkPac v Rossato.


While this is welcome news for the industry, these changes will require significant operational planning and action on the part of members to comply with the new legislation.


Nick said the casual employment contract was critical, and it was important not to undermine this during the recruitment process, by making assurances about job hours or shifts in a tight job market.


These contracts must make it clear that it is casual employment, and that work is uncertain. It should also identify casual loading or rate of pay.


He also discussed the casual conversion pathway, and identified which employers and employees this will apply to. Nick said with the changes, the risk to businesses began at the definition. He said it was imperative to get this right from the start, or businesses were potentially opening themselves up to the legal consequences.


Ethical risk expert and keynote speaker Reid Blackman shared insights into the emerging use of workforce monitoring tools in a post pandemic world, and explored the pros and cons of "corporate surveillance".


Reid said even before the pandemic, employer surveillance of employees was on the rise, with 50% of 239 large corporations monitoring the content of employees’ emails, their social media, who they meet with and how they utilise their workspaces.


While these tools may create a comprehensive picture, they can be invasive, erode trust and create a negative atmosphere in the workplace. He gave give steps on how to monitor employees while respecting their privacy.


  1. Be careful with the metrics you are using; they may give quantitative analysis but not measure deliverables. Speak to stakeholders about what metrics are relevant, including the supervisor and the employee who is being monitored.

  2. Be transparent with your employees about what you are monitoring and why.

  3. Use tools as an avenue for employee improvement, not simply as a measuring stick. Use this opportunity and ask them why they are not being productive and ask what can be done to help them.

  4. Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time. Especially under current circumstances.

  5. Decrease monitoring when and where you can.


Reid said all of this should be done while recognising that employees are your most valuable asset. They possess institutional knowledge and skills, are expensive to replace and deserve respect.


Seven other presentations on a diverse range of safety and risk management issues provided a broad coverage of the current issues the industry is experiencing.


Risky Business would not have been possible without support from our Principal Partner Prime Super, Silver Sponsors ELMO Software, RCSA Invoice Finance, and Bronze Sponsors Cloud Call, Entire Recruit, Hnry Pty Ltd, RCSA Insurance and WorkPro.


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