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Workplace psychological injury on radar, but more ‘work to be done’

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HC Online | 10 Dec 2014, 10:56 AM Agree 0
An increasing number of workers comp psychological injury claims is one trend that is shining a spotlight on the possible workplace safety law implications.
  • Catherine Cahill | 10 Dec 2014, 11:52 AM Agree 0
    It is also important to note that any anxiety or distress directly related to "reasonable performance management" is not a compensable injury in NSW.

    Employers need to have good records and good procedures to demonstrate genuine Performance Management.

  • Ian Pratt | 10 Dec 2014, 02:36 PM Agree 0
    I think progressive companies are also training their people in resilience techniques
  • Joi | 15 Dec 2014, 02:00 PM Agree 0
    I was wondering about the meaning of "reasonable performance management" and how is it being carried out?

    How would good records and procedures demonstrate that the performance management is reasonable?

  • Catherine Cahill | 15 Dec 2014, 07:50 PM Agree 0
    It is more that an absence of procedures and documentation will make it very difficult to demonstrate "reasonable performance management".

    Like everything else, what is "reasonable" is based on case law.
  • Sam | 18 Dec 2014, 11:19 AM Agree 0
    Progressive companies are not training their people in resilience techniques.
    Resilience is a tertiary strategy, and does not address the source of the problem. There is nothing progressive about engaging in resilience training, particularly when that is the only strategy.
  • Joi | 19 Dec 2014, 12:45 AM Agree 0
    Hi Catherine

    May I put forward a view point regarding the relationship regarding (a) "reasonable performance management"; (b) workplace psychological injury for the purpose of discussion?

    Under common law, an employer owes a duty to take care of their employees or workers and generally needs to consider the probability of harm (including psychological harm).

    The duty of care requires employers to exercise due diligence to address the probability and the seriousness of the harm.

    Therefore, it would be reasonable to expect the officer carrying out the performance management to use a degree of prudence, responsibility and diligence in order to meet their responsibility to address the probability of psychological harm.

    Sam has pointed out that resilience training does not address the source of the problem as it is directed at workers rather than the performance management action itself.

    The question that I pose is:
    If steps were not taken to address the foreseeable psychological harm, could this performance management action be considered reasonable?
  • Ian Pratt | 19 Dec 2014, 08:45 AM Agree 0
    It goes beyond processes and procedures, you also need to also make sure the subject of your performance management is reasonable, I know a chap who got in trouble for performance managing a high performer for being 1 minute late to one meeting, on one occasion. Whilst he followed the business performance management process to the letter the topic of the performance management was unreasonable.

    You also need to look at your phrasing, the way you communicate performance concerns to your people as that may be done in an unreasonable way, you need to communicate in an engaging way not a authoritarian way.

    Then the resilience training is because victims are often repeat victims and it is about helping them to stop the cycle.
  • Catherine Cahill | 19 Dec 2014, 10:46 AM Agree 0
    Yes - you document how you have conducted the performance management so that you can demonstrate it was reasonable.

    There are employers who call "Bullying" "Performance Management", and there are employees who call "Performance Management" - "Bullying".

    This is now one of the most complex and difficult aspects of people management. However, to ignore the performance issues - and the bullies - causes much more harm to your organisation than navigating your way through the very difficult processes required to resolve the issues.
  • Catherine Cahill | 19 Dec 2014, 10:53 AM Agree 0
    Hi Joi,

    Fairwork does recognise that employers must be able to manage their businesses, and that performance management is an essential part of that. If a person is distressed/stressed as a result of "reasonable performance management" it is not a compensable injury - in NSW. I am unsure of the status in other states. Before this provision was included in our system, the most common response to any attempts at performance management, in some sectors of employment, was to immediately claim "stress".

    None of this is easy. Anyone who has dealt with these cases knows that blame can be apportioned. We cannot be perfect no matter how hard we try. We can however have good policies, good training, clear values and a commitment to work in a fair and just manner.

    Oh - and to document everything!!

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