Beyond Physical Safety: Addressing Psychosocial Risks for a Thriving Workplace

The conversation around workplace safety has gone beyond tangible, physical risks to include mental and emotional health and well-being. We’ve recently been faced with the term ‘psychosocial hazards’ – a concept gaining ground, not just in occupational health discussions, but also in boardroom agendas across Australia. 

While traditional safety measures focus on preventing physical injuries, psychosocial hazards highlight the more subtle, yet equally detrimental, aspects of work life that can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing. 

They include a blend of both psychological and social elements in the workplace, extending from job design and work management to social interactions among colleagues. 

While these hazards might not always manifest as visible injuries, they can lead to significant stress, mental health issues and decreased productivity. And that’s crucial for businesses to understand. 

With a focus on this topic, we aim to shine a spotlight on these ‘silent stressors’, making a case for their recognition, understanding and proactive management in the workplace. 

Unpacking Psychosocial Hazards: The Categories Simplified

When we talk about workplace dangers, images of heavy machinery, electric risks, or physical strain might come to mind. However, psychosocial hazards, although less visible, can be just as harmful. 

They’re deeply intertwined with the way work is designed and managed and the interpersonal relationships within the workplace. 

To help businesses better understand these hazards, we’ve simplified them into three broader categories: 

1. Work Design and Management 

This category focuses on the tasks at hand, how they’re structured and the autonomy an employee has.

Job Demands: A balanced workload is essential for the well-being of employees. Extremes, whether too much work or too little of it, pose risks. For instance, an employee might face excessive demands during peak business seasons and then have minimal tasks during slower periods.

 An OECD study reported that on average about 13% of Australian employees work over 50 hours weekly, risking stress and fatigue. Conversely, too little work  can lead to disengagement or feelings of insignificance.

Low Job Control: Job satisfaction often depends on the control employees have over tasks. Low job control means workers can’t decide how or when they work. It’s different from having set tasks or structured job responsibilities; it’s about constantly feeling restricted.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that 38% of employees didn’t have authority over their work, which can reduce job satisfaction. Recognising and rectifying this hazard is crucial for maintaining a motivated and engaged workforce.

Lack of Role Clarity: The certainty and understanding of one’s role within an organisation are critical to effective job performance. When employees are unsure about their job description, their responsibilities, or the expectations set for them, it leads to a lack of role clarity. This isn’t just about occasionally facing complex tasks; the issue becomes hazardous when the ambiguity is extreme, consistent, or recurrent.

Inadequate Reward and Recognition: Job satisfaction is a fine balance between an employee’s efforts and the recognition they receive. This can range from awards to simple verbal praise. Overlooking recognition can become problematic if it’s a regular or long-standing issue.

Consistent employee recognition can lead to significant improvements in the workplace. Doubling the number of recognitions each week, can improve work quality by 24%, reduce absenteeism by 27%, and decrease staff turnover by 10%.

Poor Organisational Change Management: Change is inherent to organisational growth. But how that change is managed determines its success and the impact on the company’s workforce and productivity. 

A staggering 70% of change initiatives fail, often due to employee pushback and weak management. Poor organisational change management includes transitions that are haphazardly planned, communicated, supported, or executed. It isn’t about a decision that isn’t well-received. Poor change management becomes a significant psychosocial hazard when it’s notably flawed, sustained, or a regular occurrence.


2. Social and Organisational Context

This category focuses on the social fabric of a workplace, which plays a pivotal role in employee wellbeing.

Poor Support: Every individual relies on support systems within the workplace. These systems constitute the backbone of daily operations and overall job satisfaction. ‘Poor support’ goes beyond the inconvenience of waiting for a colleague to wrap up a meeting. It’s the persistent and profound lack of assistance from peers, supervisors, or even the deficiency of resources required for efficient job performance.

When the lack of support becomes regular, acute, or sustained, it goes from being a mere inconvenience to a notable psychosocial hazard. The consequences are many – from declining morale to reduced productivity and increased turnover.

Poor Organisational Justice: ‘Organisational justice’ really boils down to fairness at work. It’s about how employees feel they’re treated by the company, its rules, and the bosses. It’s not just about small problems, like not getting the work shift you wanted. It’s about bigger issues where workers often feel ignored, unvalued or mistreated.

Recognising and addressing these issues of organisational justice is about cultivating a culture where every employee feels integral to the success of the organisation.

Conflict or Poor Relationships: Having a good working relationship with colleagues is key to a positive workplace. But sometimes, behaviours that hurt others creep in. These can range from:

  • Violence and Aggression: Physical or verbal acts that intimidate or harm.
  • Bullying: Repeated actions that make someone feel belittled or unsafe.
  • Harassment: This includes unwanted behaviours based on gender, race, age, ability, and other personal factors.
  • General Workplace Issues: Everyday conflicts or misunderstandings that spoil relationships and teamwork. 

It’s important to understand that we’re not talking about small, isolated incidents. It’s about serious behaviours that persistently disrupt the workplace and strain professional relationships.

Violence and Aggression: This refers to situations where an individual faces abuse, threats, or physical assaults while on the job. In addition to the immediate physical harm, the psychological impact can be long-lasting and severe, posing significant health and safety concerns.

Business owners must address and manage the risks associated with violence and aggression in the workplace. This responsibility extends not just to conflicts among employees but also involves interactions with external individuals, such as customers and clients. Ensuring a safe environment for all is paramount, and businesses must be proactive in mitigating these risks.

Bullying: Would it surprise you to know that almost half of all Australians will be bullied in some way? 

Workplace bullying is characterized by ongoing, unwarranted actions aimed at an individual or a group of workers. It’s not a simple disagreement or one-off incident; it’s a consistent pattern of behaviour that can deeply affect those on the receiving end. The consequences of bullying extend beyond emotional distress; it can also lead to tangible physical harm, elevating it to a critical health and safety concern.

Businesses are obligated to identify, address, and manage the threats associated with bullying in the workplace. Every employee has the right to a safe working environment, and businesses need to step up and ensure this protection.

Harassment (including Sexual Harassment): Harassment in the workplace, whether it’s based on gender, race, age, ability, or other personal factors, is a pressing concern. It creates an environment of fear, mistrust, and discomfort, affecting not only the targeted individuals but also those around them.

Workplace sexual harassment is particularly severe and unacceptable. It can manifest in various ways: some actions are blatant, while others might be more hidden or insidious. Whether it’s a repeated pattern or a single incident, the effects are profound. Such harassment traumatizes the direct victim and can also deeply affect those who witness it.

By addressing harassment head-on and fostering a culture of respect and safety, businesses not only comply with the law but also create a healthier, more productive work environment.


3. Work Environment and Conditions

This category focuses on the actual conditions and environments where work is performed. 

Remote or Isolated Work: Remote or isolated work refers to jobs where employees are separated from the help or company of others due to the location, timing, or the kind of task they’re performing. This type of work might involve extensive travel, limited resources, or sparse communication options. It poses unique challenges, demanding both workers and employers to adapt and ensure safety and efficiency.

Poor Physical Environment: A poor physical environment at work refers to situations where workers consistently face unpleasant, substandard, or even dangerous situations. This could be anything from poor lighting and ventilation to exposure to harmful substances. 

When such conditions are extreme, persistent, or a regular occurrence, they transform from mere annoyances into significant psychosocial hazards. Addressing these issues is crucial for the well-being and safety of employees and their overall productivity and morale. 

Traumatic Events or Material: Being exposed to traumatic events or material at work refers to facing situations or content that deeply distress or shock. Whether it’s witnessing an unsettling incident, investigating a harrowing case, or consistently being exposed to disturbing materials, such experiences can have profound psychological impacts on workers.

Recognising and addressing the risks associated with such traumatic exposures is crucial. It safeguards the mental well-being of employees, ensuring they can work effectively and healthily.

Understanding these categories helps businesses take a holistic approach to identifying potential problems. It’s the first step in ensuring a healthier, more supportive, and productive work environment.

Why Should Busineses Care?

At its core, a business thrives on the well-being and productivity of its employees. Addressing psychosocial hazards isn’t merely about ticking off compliance boxes. It’s a strategic move towards creating a thriving, positive work environment. 

When businesses prioritise the mental and physical health of their employees, they directly boost workplace morale. This proactive approach not only curbs absenteeism but also reduces staff turnover, saving on recruitment costs and preserving organisational knowledge. 

Moreover, in an age where reputation is everything, a company known for its commitment to employee well-being stands out. It attracts top talent and earns respect in the marketplace. In essence, by addressing these risks, businesses are investing in their most valuable asset – their people.

Taking the Next Steps

Identifying psychosocial hazards is just the beginning. The true challenge lies in continuous vigilance and responsive action. Businesses should engage in regular evaluations to create a workplace that is not only safe but one that thrives. 

These assessments should be tailored to the unique dynamics of each workplace. Coupled with this, fostering open communication channels is vital. Encouraging employees to voice concerns or share experiences can unearth potential issues before they escalate. This dialogue builds trust and emphasises the organisation’s commitment to its workforce. 

Lastly, having proactive measures in place – whether it’s training programs, mental health support, or clear policies – can pre-emptively address potential risks. By taking these steps, businesses are not just averting problems; they’re sculpting a culture of care and inclusivity.

If you would like to chat further about how you can ensure psychosocial safety  in your workplace, book in a free 30-minute consultation here.

This article offers a comprehensive overview of the scheme, its impact on small businesses, and the importance of fostering a supportive work environment with access to Australia domestic violence support services.

An in-depth look at how this initiative supports employees and small businesses. 

Understanding Family and Domestic Violence Leave

Family and domestic violence is characterised by intentional harm or fear inflicted by one person in a relationship onto another. This recurring pattern of behaviour aims to control, manipulate or harm the victim. Abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, or sexual, and may come from anyone in a close relationship with the victim.

In Australia, the AustralianBureau of Statistics reports that one in six women and one in sixteen men experience family and domestic violence in their lifetime. We’re all aware of the prevalence of family and domestic violence, but did you know that, in Australia, a woman is murdered by her current or former partner every 10 days? Shockingly, that’s true!

Workplaces often serve as a refuge for victims, offering safety and crucial social and financial support, as well as access to various Australia domestic violence support services.

The Importance of Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave

Stable employment is a critical factor in helping individuals escape abusive relationships. The introduction of paid leave allows victims to take time off without risking their income or employment, facilitating their exit from harmful domestic situations.

Addressing family and domestic violence also benefits employers, as it can impact an employee’s productivity due to distress or unplanned absences.

Criteria for Accessing Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave

The new scheme allows full-time, part-time and casual employees in Australia, whose employers fall under the national industrial relations system, to access 10 days of paid leave within a 12-month period.

This leave can be utilised for various purposes related to family and domestic violence, such as ensuring safety, attending court, seeking police services, or participating in appointments with professionals in counselling, medicine, finance or law.

The leave doesn’t accumulate and resets annually on the employee’s work anniversary. The new paid leave replaces the existing National Employment Standards (NES) entitlement of five days of unpaid leave. Employees can still access unpaid leave until paid leave becomes available in their workplace.

Implications for Small Businesses

The paid family and domestic violence leave applies to all small businesses under the national (Fair Work) industrial relations system, typically incorporated businesses with ‘Pty Ltd’ it ‘Ltd’ in their name. This was scheduled in two phases:

  • For businesses with over 15 employees, the leave policy became effective: February 1, 2023
  • For businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the leave policy becomes effective: August 1, 2023
  • Until August 1, 2023, employees working for national system small business employers with less than 15 employees can continue to take unpaid family and domestic violence leave. While the scheme doesn’t yet apply to employers under Western Australia’s state industrial relations system, it is anticipated to come into effect for state system employers in 2024.

Employee Entitlements Under the Scheme

Full-time and part-time employees will receive their full pay rate for the hours they would’ve worked if they were not on leave. Casual employees will be paid at their full pay rate for the hours they were scheduled to work during the leave period.

Employees may need to provide evidence, such as a statutory declaration or documentation from the police, court, or family violence support service.

Employers Can Support Affected Employees

It is crucial for employers to create a supportive and secure work environment. If an employee is suspected of experiencing family and domestic, it is essential to check on their well-being and encourage them to seek professional help. This could include Australia domestic violence support services. Employers should also make information about support services like 1800 Respect and the Employee Assistance Program readily available in the workplace for all employees to access.

Here are some practical steps employers can take to support affected employees:

  • Develop a workplace policy: Creating a clear and comprehensive policy on family and domestic violence can help foster a supportive work culture and ensure that employees are aware of their rights and available resources.
  • Provide training to the leadership team: Equip managers and supervisors with the necessary knowledge and skills to identify and respond to employees experiencing family and domestic violence. This can include understanding the signs of abuse, knowing how to address the situation sensitively, and being aware of relevant laws and support services.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements: Implementing flexible work options, such as remote work or altered hours, as possible, can provide additional support for employees dealing with family and domestic violence. This flexibility allows them to manage their personal matters while maintaining their job security.
  • Maintain confidentiality: Respect the privacy of employees by keeping their disclosures confidential and handling any information with sensitivity. Ensure that the affected employee’s contact details and work schedule are not shared without their consent.
  • Establish a support network: Encourage the formation of a workplace support network where employees have a safe space to share their experiences and help each other. This can help create a sense of community and solidarity among employees.

Potential Benefits of  the Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave Scheme

This recent implemented leave policy while benefiting family and domestic violence survivors also had a positive impact for employers and society as a whole.

For employees:

  1. Financial security: The paid leave allows employees to maintain financial stability while addressing domestic violence issues, which is crucial in helping them leave abusive situations.
  2. Reduced stress: By offering paid leave, employees can focus on seeking support and handling their personal matters without the added worry of lost income or job loss.
  3. Improved mental health: Access to paid leave can improve the mental health of employees affected by family and domestic violence. It provides an opportunity to seek professional help and work towards recovery.

For employers:

  • Increased productivity: Addressing family and domestic violence issues through paid leave can lead to more focussed and productive employees. They can better manage their personal matters without work-related stress.
  • Enhanced workplace culture: Providing support to employees experiencing domestic violence can foster a positive workplace culture, demonstrating empathy and understanding from the employer.
  • Reduced turnover: Offering paid leave for domestic violence can lead to lower employee turnover rates, as it shows a commitment to employees’ well-being and encourages loyalty.

For the community: 

  • Greater awareness: The introduction of the paid leave scheme raises awareness of family and domestic violence, encouraging open conversations and promoting the availability of support services.
  • Societal change: By acknowledging and addressing family and domestic violence through paid leave, the scheme contributes to a larger societal shift towards reducing and preventing such violence.
  • Economic benefits: Reducing the prevalence of family and domestic violence has far-reaching economic benefits, including decreased healthcare costs and increased workforce participation.

United Efforts for a Safer Society: Combating Family and Domestic Violence Together

By implementing the paid family and domestic violence leave scheme and taking proactive steps to support affected employees, Australia is making significant strides towards creating a safer, more inclusive work environment. The well-being of employees is clearly being prioritised.

Employers play a critical role in this process by fostering a supportive workplace culture, providing resources, and ensuring that survivors feel empowered and secure in their professional lives.

Together, these efforts demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing the pervasive issue of family and domestic violence. They also contribute to the broader goal of building a society where everyone can thrive without fear or harm. As we move forward, employers, employees and the community at large must continue working collaboratively to eliminate family and domestic violence. And more importantly, to support the resilience and strength of survivors.

If you would like to chat further about this Scheme, book in a free 30-minute consultation here.


Resilience helps us cope when times are tough. The world events of the last two years have been incredibly difficult; they have taken a significant toll on our safety, security, and overall wellbeing. As such, it’s crucial that workplaces help their teams build a ‘toolkit’ of resilience-related skills that they can draw on for support. Just like any other skill or behaviour, becoming resilient involves training, development of positive daily routines, and on-going maintenance. HR consultants and business leaders are perfectly placed to assist their employees in the practice of resilience.   

Why Build Resilience? 

Humans have a natural capacity for resilience.  

However, we sometimes need direction to help us understand the factors that impede it, particularly when work environments go through periods of change. ‘Doing the work’ to develop positive daily routines does not have to be hard – we are all capable of setting realistic and achievable goals that help us achieve success in our work and personal lives. 

Where to start? 

There are many factors that affect our ability to be resilient.  

From a psychological perspective, we are influenced by our individual thoughts and beliefs and inter-personal relationships, not to mention a plethora of community, societal, cultural, and environmental elements. However, positive change most often begins when we become aware of our individual thought patterns and inner beliefs.  

Negativity, fear, stress, and anxiety are all normal feelings, but they do not have to dictate your behaviour. It is possible to change your outlook. 

Create Good Habits 

Creating good, beneficial habits takes persistence.  

Leaders, Human Resources teams, and employees may already have many tools to help them navigate change, stress, and anxiety. But bringing these into your workplace consciousness allows support to become ingrained at a grass roots level. Helping your staff to develop resilience-building habits, and creating a culture of support and understanding, takes time and effort which are well worth the rewards. 

Build your Resilience Bank Account 

Adding to your resilience account is making an investment in yourself.  

Like your financial bank account, you have the opportunity to make resilience ‘debits and credits’ – but remember that both are cumulative. Being aware of ‘debits’ – the thoughts and behaviours that chip away at your strength and ability to move forward – helps you to combat them. Intentionally building your resilience ‘credits’ give you a strong basis and the courage to make change, keep going, and tackle the tough moments when they arise. 

Encourage your Staff to make Resilience Deposits: 

  • Identify and use their strengths 
  • Do something nice for someone 
  • Volunteer in the community 
  • Include time for ‘fun’ in their day 

Make Friends with your Imposter 

Your inner imposter can damage your resilience.  

Your beliefs drive your behaviours 

Unhelpful thoughts of not being good enough, capable enough, or worthy enough affect your performance, and your health. Self-doubt is a pattern that repeats, time and again, until it becomes automatic. 

Making friends with your imposter combats the negative beliefs that tend to become more vocal when you are under stress. Consciously tell your imposter to quiet down and remind them that you are deserving of your achievements and any recognition you receive. Take the credit for your hard work and efforts. 

Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset 

Becoming aware of any limiting thoughts and beliefs, then challenging them, switches your psychology from a ‘fixed mindset’ to one of growth. This is where you can make change and create good habits that will serve you well in the workplace.  

A Growth Mindset increases productivity, creates motivation, and improves relationships 

  • Think about the positive words you can use to change your mindset 
  • Think about your beliefs, and work out how to make them constructive  
  • ‘Yet’ is a powerful word to create the space for change; ‘I haven’t done that’ is different to ‘I’m yet to achieve that.’ 

The Secret to ‘Taking Action’ 

People can talk themselves out of anything. The longer you wait to do something, the greater the odds are that you will never actually achieve it.  

The secret to ‘taking action’ is moving before the convincing voice in your head sabotages your motivation.

Overthinking, overplanning and procrastination are excuses to not take action. To move forwards, go with what you know is the ‘right thing’ to do without overthinking, or giving yourself time to talk yourself out of it.

Build Resilience with Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule 

This is a quick and easy tool for staff to implement in their daily routines. 

‘The 5 Second Rule is simple.  If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds, or your brain will kill it. The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule.’  

  • Think about your life in five-second windows.  
  • The moment you began to hesitate about something, count down from ‘5,4,3,2,1’ . This stops the flow of negative thoughts.   
  • Then move! Step into action!  

They key to create the change you desire is to use the five-second window in conjunction with the clarity to tune into your skills and experiences.  

Worry, procrastination, and self-doubt are all habits that damage resilience. But you can use science to break them – it all comes back to those five-second decisions. The next time you criticise yourself, be aware of your imposter-voice, and refuse to repeat the same fixed ideas. 

When you begin to take action every single day, you start to build resilience and see yourself becoming the person you want to be. This gives you the confidence to continue to take action and increase that skill. Even the most successful struggle with self-doubt. But you can learn to change fixed ideas, trust yourself, and make decisions based on a positive mental health psychology that will improve both your workplace performance and personal wellbeing. 

Catie is available for speaking engagements including facilitation of training on HR and leadership related topics. To book, contact Catie on +61 (0) 409 545 634 or 

We hope that most of the time we get our recruitment right but at times we don’t, and we can’t get it right all the time. Sometimes people leave as a result of something that could have been identified at the recruitment stage. Remember, we generally employ people for their skills and competencies and 90% of the time we manage people out of the business because of their behaviours and attitudes.

We invest considerable resources in the hope of finding great team members and I’m sure you’ve had enough of attracting the wrong candidates or candidates not even showing up for their interviews. The recruitment process for any business can be daunting, especially if you don’t get it right the first time. There are some common mistakes that businesses could avoid, giving them every chance of finding the right candidate. Here are 8 common mistakes businesses make with recruitment:

1.Ignoring promoting from within the business

It’s common for businesses to forget to look at the people they already have on board to see if anyone can do the role or who could grow into the role with development. Promoting from within can also motivate the team and increase morale. Take the time to write down the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an external person to a role versus a current team member.

2.Lengthy hiring process

Some businesses take too long in the recruitment process and run the risk of missing out on great candidates. 33% of candidates will lose interest and pursue other roles if the hiring process is lengthy. Majority of candidates will be applying for more than one role at a time and in this current job market, talent is being ‘snapped up’ very quickly.

3.Making assumptions

There are so many assumptions that can be made in a recruitment process! Making too many assumptions based on what the current job market is like without backing it up with some data and research, assuming one channel for attracting and searching for candidates will give you a representative sample of resumes or only focusing on ‘good looking’ resumes. Also, assuming the candidate that lives closest to the office is the right choice.

4.Lack of preparation

A recruitment process can feel overwhelming, but preparation is key in making sure you provide a positive candidate experience. Some common areas where businesses make mistakes are not preparing for interviews such as scheduling and confirming interview times and locations, developing interview questions and re-familiarise themselves with the position description.

5.Interviewers do all the talking and not a lot of listening

When interviewing candidates, some interviewers do all the talking and not a lot of listening, they use closed questions rather than open ended questions and they don’t make a candidate feel comfortable and relaxed from the start. Many interviewers we have found have actually failed to let the candidate know about the actual duties of the role.

6.Not doing your due diligence

Businesses don’t always have the hiring process following a level playing field in which each candidate is judged against identical selection criteria or not asking themselves clarifying questions to make sure the final decision on the chosen candidate is as objective as possible. It is important when selecting your candidates, you do your due diligence by finding out if the candidates information provided is accurate, for example, qualifications are true and correct. Reference checks are a good way to clarify the information, thoughts and opinions you came up with during the interview, for example, ‘this is what I found, would you agree’? It is also good to have another opinion of the candidate’s work habits and performance as well as behaviours.

7.To many ‘cooks in the kitchen’

It’s important to have the right people involved in the recruitment process such as the potential candidate’s manager. However, having too many people involved can slow down the recruitment process.

8.Lack of communication

Ongoing communication with candidates throughout the recruitment process is important. 44% of candidates find poor communication as the most frustrating aspect of a hiring process and I’m sure we have all had this experience where you heard nothing back from your application. Candidates need to receive communication from you even if they are unsuccessful for an interview or were interviewed and are unsuccessful. The unsuccessful candidate may not be right for this role but potentially others in the future.

Adapting a more structured recruitment approach may help you avoid some of these common traps. When you are involved in the selection process you should always keep in mind the importance of bringing people in who are not just good at the job, but who will also play a part in helping to create a more positive culture.


Ready to improve your recruitment process?

My Recruit Right! Program will show you the 9-Essential Steps you need for a more effective recruitment process. The program has been designed to support you and your team to implement an effective, efficient and consistent process in line with current legislation and laws. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you! The best part is, you can complete the program when and where it suits you!

Enrol for my Recruit Right program here.

2021 certainly for business owners, managers and people leaders has been tough to navigate with ongoing restrictions and lockdowns, vaccine mandates, keeping staff engaged and morale high, adapting to remote work models and recruiting and onboarding virtually. The ‘future of work’ has definitely been accelerated by the pandemic.

On a positive note, we have seen shifts in businesses prioritising mental health and wellbeing, not just from an organisation level but through to a team level, fully embracing flexible work and finding ways to improve retention and communications with their employees.

For Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting we have enjoyed helping businesses build a solid foundation of HR processes, systems and culture to allow their people the opportunity to grow and contribute to the achievement of overall business goals. Through the Human Resources Success Audit Webinar Series’ with the Better Business for Good Company, the new resources library and Recruit Right online program (more online programs to come!) we can further support businesses to create better workplaces.

Human Resources trends expected in 2022

2022 will see a need for businesses to really focus on increasing engagement with their staff with a focus on regular communication, in particular, one to one checkins to discuss and make sure employees are progressing to achieve their career goals and training and development plans and to provide Managers an understanding if they need further support in certain areas.  Engagement will only continue to increase if people are provided clarity, certainty and a clear direction on where the company is headed.

2022 will also see workplaces fully implement their hybrid work model as a long-term approach rather than just for the needs of the pandemic. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ model and each business will need to update their policies and adjust their model that fits around their employees and customer needs.

Mental health and wellbeing will also need to be a top priority for 2022 with the need for businesses to look at wellbeing more from a team level and not just from an organisational perspective. Clear and consistent communication of mental health and wellness support programs and resources and the people involved is crucial, whether this is to employees working remotely, in an office or on a large worksite.

Businesses will need remain flexible with their plans with some potential external changes to occur unexpectedly.

At Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting we are here to help with all your people management needs. If you would like to know more, book a free 30-minute consultation with me here.

Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of every worker is essential. There are many things that can affect mental health, including work as it plays a significant role in our everyday life. Over time there has been a stigma around mental health illness and no more so than in the construction industry.

Now with the increased awareness, education and support services available and organisations, big and small in the industry making it a priority, this stigma is slowly being removed and more and more workers know it’s okay now to ask for help and are reaching out for the help they need.

The awareness and promotion of mental health illness needs to continue in the industry and organisations have a vital role in this. The continuation of the uncertainty in the world from the pandemic and other social and environmental factors makes mental health awareness an even greater priority.

If you are leading a team of people, in the office, remotely or on a building site, there are ways you can support and promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Here are some tips for you to take action:

Providing awareness, training and support

Communicating and providing awareness to your workers on why we need to discuss mental health, the problems it can cause people and warning signs to look out for if someone they know is struggling is important. Workers need to know that it’s okay to talk about mental health and seek support if they need it, who in the organisation they can go to if they need someone to talk to or how they can access the organisation’s support programs such as an employee assistance program (EAP).

Training certain individuals to be a person someone can turn to if they are in need of help is critical but also shows to all workers how serious the organisation is in supporting mental health and wellbeing. There are a number of organisations who run training sessions for people/workers who volunteer to be support person such as Mates in Construction and Beyond Blue.

Clear and consistent communication of your mental health and wellness support programs and resources and the people involved is crucial, especially on large worksites, so people know what is available to them. Promoting programs and resources through your organisation’s website or staff portal/hub, in breakout/tea rooms, email signatures, social media, when onboarding new workers, participating in charitable mental health events such as RU Ok? day, bringing in someone that is willing to share their personal experience with mental health, setting up information and training sessions and allowing workers time to attend them will create awareness of your mental health and wellness support programs.

What is an Employee Assistance program?

According to the Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australaisa (EAPAA), an EAP ‘is a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological wellbeing of all employees and includes services for immediate family members.’ Having an EAP can help with early prevention and interventions of any issues related to work or personal that might be affecting a person’s ability to perform/reach their full potential at work and life in general.

Some large organisations may provide their EAP programs in-house but generally these are outsourced to a provider who have experienced counsellors, referral partners for different services that might be needed, and they understand the compliance and reporting required.

If your organisation has not created an EAP then it might be a good time to start. It’s critical with all the uncertainty around the pandemic and the effects of snap shutdowns in Victoria, reduced numbers on construction sites and increases in COVID-19 cases, workers of all ages need to be supported.

There are some critical elements that need to be considered when putting together an EAP such as the goals and needs of the EAP, if it will be outsourced, training staff, how the EAP will be communicated and tracked, development of policies, procedures and guidelines and compliance/legal and confidentiality requirements. An experienced Human Resources consultant like, Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting can help you and your team put together an EAP that is the right fit for your organisation and your onsite workers.

Not only are EAP’s there to help your workers, they can also help an organisation with less employee absenteeism reducing costs, increases in engagement and retention, to mitigate risks and health and safety concerns and improve productivity levels.

Learn to be a good listener and attuned to how your workers are really feeling

A strong leader is able to engage their people to maximise their people’s potential to be better, communicate effectively, regularly solicit feedback and new ideas and have the ability to problem solve and react quickly to the changing environment.

Whether you are managing one worksite or multiple sites or a small business owner with apprentices, being a good listener and building that human connection that develops trust and loyalty with your workers is essential for a good working relationship and for them to feel they can be open with you. It can also help you, as a leader, to gain knowledge and even new ideas.

To further encourage open communication, it’s important to consistently make time and space for each of your workers to be able to speak with you and for you to check in with them. This will help you get to know and understand their individual circumstances from both a personal and work point of view. The check ins are not only important for collecting feedback from your worker but allow for uninterrupted time to discuss any problems they might be experiencing, work in progress, professional development and performance. Having conversations like these will also help you align the needs of the team with the business.

With immense time pressures on building sites and trades, finding the time to meet with each worker during the week can be difficult. It’s important that these check ins are not rushed or continuously rescheduled.

To make the most of your one-to-one check ins:

  1. Set re-occurring check ins at a frequency that suits you, your workers and the business and limit the time to 30 minutes.
  2. Keep them as formal or casual as you like or what suits your business. However, it can be useful to structure them or have an agenda in mind to ensure what needs to be discussed is and to keep to time.
  3. Take some time before the meeting to collect your thoughts and remove any distractions so you are fully present.
  4. To encourage a flow of conversation and to ‘break the ice’, start with a non-work-related simple question to relieve any tension and to start off positive i.e. How was your weekend? If you know of an activity they like or involved in, ‘Did you play football this weekend?’ You could also start off with something around well-being ‘How are you feeling this week?’
  5. Ask questions with intent and really show you are listening and interested with what they have to say.

It is especially important leaders are communicating and checking in on their workers. At the same time, leaders also need to be checked on, as they are working extra hard to protect the wellbeing and safety of their workers and steer their business through economic uncertainty. As such, there needs to be a process or system in place to make sure leaders and the business owners are also being checked on regularly. This could be a colleague or someone outside the organisation.

The role of a leader is significant in creating a safe work environment and inspiring others to do so. Not only enforcing the legal obligations of safe work but having a workplace where their people are able to effectively do their work to their full potential. During these times of uncertainty, it’s essential to keep people well-informed of current situations and how they might be affected. This can alleviate some stress and anxiety.

If you or someone you know is suffering with their mental health, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. 

If you’re currently experiencing an increase in difficult, sensitive and overwhelming issues with your workers and need help finding an engaging approach for you or your leaders, please don’t hesitate to contact Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting today on 0409 545 634 or

Recently, Catie had the privilege of being invited to appear on an episode of Small Business Matters with The Better Business for Good (BB4G) TV. Co-founder Brenda Thomson and Catie discuss the IF, WHEN and HOW of effectively managing redundancies, in particular:

– Why would you consider redundancy?

– Can you make any role redundant?

– What are the legal implications?

– Do you have to follow a process?

– What are the alternatives to redundancy?

Catch up on Catie’s episode now on the Better Business for Good Company website. Click the link below to watch the full episode.

If you are needing guidance on how to effectively manage redundancies, get in touch with me today.

Businesses are always having to adapt to changes from the economic and social environment, technological advancements and their customer’s needs. Many of these changes can be planned for and implemented when the business is ready. The pandemic changed a lot of these plans and some businesses were forced to pivot their operations and priorities or even temporarily close, no more so then in the building industry.

Significant events like COVID-19, have impacts on employee roles, responsibilities and conditions, however, at the same time, it hasn’t changed employer obligations no matter the severity of business issues.

In a recent case, a client in the building industry had an employee file an unfair dismissal claim citing constructive dismissal and redundancy. Due to the complexity of the dispute and changes to the business as a result of COVID-19 at that point in time, Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting was brought in to manage the unfair dismissal case to help the employer and employee resolve the dispute that was both fair and reasonable for both parties.

The lead up to the dispute

The employer owns and operates two business entities in the building industry. Before taking twelve months maternity leave the employee was engaged in a role, working three days per week and no weekends. When the employee was due to return to work from maternity leave, COVID-19 restrictions meant some of the builder’s operations were closed. There was a decline in sales which resulted in the employee not being able to return to their previous role.

The employer offered the employee an alternate role in their other ‘business entity’ for a period of four to six months until sales increased. The role offered was similar in status and the pay remained that same as the previous role with the other business entity. The hours of work would this time include working one weekend day.

The employee did not agree that the alternate role was of similar status and requested a further six-month extension of maternity leave in order to return to the original role. The employer did not agree to the maternity leave extension but agreed to the employee working three days per week and no weekends. The employee did not accept this and resigned from her role and filed an unfair dismissal citing constructive dismissal and redundancy.

The approach to the Unfair Dismissal Conciliation

According to Fair Work, a constructive dismissal is a forced resignation, meaning an employee has no real choice but to resign. A genuine redundancy is when an “employer no longer required the person’s job to be performed by anyone because of changes in the operational requirements of the employer’s enterprise.”

Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting approached the dispute by first reviewing and understanding the facts of the case by utilising prior knowledge and experience from other similar disputes, to determine if it was constructive dismissal and a genuine redundancy. With this concise process of review and consultation, Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting were able to gather the necessary documentation to justify the decisions that were made and that procedures were followed in compliance with Fair Work. This meant the client was well prepared for the unfair dismissal conciliation with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and an agreed settlement could be reached, avoiding a full FWC hearing or conference.

The Result

During the conciliation it was found the situation was not constructive dismissal as the employee resigned on their own accord as a result of not wanting to accept/work in the alternate role offered with the other business entity. It was deemed that the employer did offer flexibility with changing the roster to working three days per week and no weekends.  Also, the original role was not made redundant as the employer required someone in the role for the future and within six months.

The importance of Human Resources (HR) policies, procedures and documentation

FWC conciliations and hearings can be very stressful for all parties involved and can be a very long, drawn out process if procedures, documentation and consultation requirements are not followed or complied with. As this case demonstrates it’s important to have workplace policies and procedures in place to help manage legal risk, provide that support framework for when decisions need to be made and required documentation.

It also shows how the complexity of the pandemic can affect a business and their employee’s roles, responsibilities and conditions but employer obligations still remain the same as before the pandemic.

Businesses going through significant changes should seek guidance from a Human Resources Consultant on any decisions that need to be made around their workforce to hopefully avoid FWC conciliations and hearings.

Here’s why a small business had to pay a redundancy based on full time hours and not part time hours which resulted in a difference of tens of thousands of dollars.

The impacts of the pandemic can be felt across many industries far and wide. One of the biggest industries that has really been hit hard is the events industry. Due to heavy Government restrictions of gatherings, all events where no longer able to go ahead which forced many small event businesses to temporary close or completely close with no longer being able to sustain the extended restrictions of Melbourne’s lockdown.

A small event-based business, who had been decimated by the pandemic and no longer in operation had to make redundancies. As a result of one employee not having an Employment Agreement and the process not being followed the business had to pay a redundancy based on full time hours and not part time hours which resulted in a significant difference of more than tens of thousands of dollars for the pay-out.

The lesson for other businesses is to make sure all your employees have written documentation, that it’s up to date with their current position and employment and signed by the employee.


The employee was originally employed by the event-based business on a full-time basis and also received a significant salary increase over the past twelve months. During this time, the employee went on maternity leave and returned on a part-time basis.

Throughout their employment there was no signed Employment Agreement in place for either their full time or part time employment and no regular hours were discussed and confirmed in writing. The only form of documentation was a letter provided to the employee regarding their increase in salary.

With the unfortunate closure of the business, the business had to make redundancies which the relevant consultation requirements set out by the Fair Work Ombudsman were also not followed correctly.

The result

As there was no signed Employment Agreement in place, the administrative processes not correctly followed internally and the relevant consultation requirements set out by the Fair Work Ombudsman not followed, the business were required to pay the employee’s redundancy based on full time hours and not part time hours. This resulted in a significant pay-out to the employee at a substantial difference of more than tens of thousands of dollars.

Tips to prevent this happening to your business

  • No matter how big or small the business, it’s critical to have a good and solid administrative procedure that makes sure Employment Agreements are followed up on and signed. A signed Employment Agreement needs to be in place regardless of your relationship or if they are a ‘nice person.’
  • Any updates to the Employment Agreement should be made in writing and confirmed by employee by counter-signing the Employee Agreement.
  • The signed Employee Agreement must also be for your employee’s current employment and position.
  • It’s important to follow the Fair Work Ombudsman employment processes, procedures, policies and the law.
  • Seek professional advice if you are unsure about the redundancy process or need help to set up administrative processes and procedures for managing Employee Agreements.


These minor administrative tasks of signed Employment Agreements can seem insignificant and can be put to the side and sometimes forgotten about. As this case shows not following up and updating Employment Agreements when current employment and positions have changed can have significant consequences down the track. This case also emphasised the importance of understanding your obligations to consult with your employees when there have been substantial business changes.