Archived News for Human Resource Professionals - June, 2012
The Productivity Commission has found room for improvement in the country’s default superannuation fund arrangements in modern awards, with a draft report saying more should be done to promote the best interest of members.
The Default Superannuation Funds in Modern Awards draft report found more should be done to increase transparency in such organisations.
“Australian employees would benefit from a default superannuation fund selection process that is contestable, transparent and provides for the regular reassessment of the most appropriate funds to be listed in awards,” Commission Deputy Chairman Mike Woods said.
The Queensland Government has announced the formation of a new review group within the state’s public service that will be responsible for identifying reform options to create a ‘renewed, refocused and more efficient public service, realise significant savings for all agencies and drive cultural change.’
The Victorian Government has claimed success in reducing costs for thousands of Victorian businesses with significant reduction to the cost of WorkCover premiums that took effect at the start of the week.
The Federal Government has released for public comment a Green Paper for the National Career Development Strategy that aims to help Australians build more productive and rewarding careers.
Overwork is significantly impacting the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, a Flinders University labour studies expert has warned.
Professor Sue Richardson, a Principal Research Fellow at the Flinders-based National Institute of Labour Studies, said overwork was an issue that must be taken “much more seriously”.
“We hear a lot about unemployment and underemployment but we don’t hear nearly enough about overemployment,” Professor Richardson said.
“There’s a strong language about how hard work and long hours are somehow morally superior but I think that conversation needs to be reconsidered,” she said.
“Instead of making it seem like it’s a macho commitment to the job we need to work on the language and the way we present it to reduce the pressures to work longer hours.”
Her comments come amid the findings of a four-year research project, funded through a $1.3 million National Health and Medical Research Council grant, which have revealed the impact of overwork on the mental health of Australia’s workforce.
Professor Richardson said a quarter of the 8,000 employees surveyed in the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey were working more hours than they wanted and, as a result, displayed “significantly” lower levels of mental health.
“We do have overtime but the issue arises when people don’t get paid for the extra hours they put in, and since longer hours are producing more stressed workers and reducing mental health, it suggests the labour market isn’t working well.
“Employers need to think very carefully about what they’re asking of their workers and whether it’s manageable in the time available.”
The research was part of a wider study, conducted in partnership with researchers from Flinders Southgate Institute and the University of Melbourne, to determine whether casual, contract and part-time employment were harmful for mental health.
Despite a growth in flexible work arrangements, with about 40 per cent of the Australian workforce employed in casual and part-time positions, Professor Richardson said the high level of protection for these workers in Australia meant there were no mental health ramifications.
In fact, she said many workers were choosing more flexible terms of employment to escape the burden of overwork and inflexible work hours.
“Australia also has a unique industrial relations regime which insists people on casual terms get paid more per hour than their full-time equivalents, and other employee benefits are the same whether you work full-time or part-time,” she said.
“Quite a few workers actually like casual work, partly because of the pay provisions and partly because it gives them greater control over their hours of work – for many workers it suits them to work part-time if they’ve got important other demands in life because they avoid the pressure.”
The Australian Institute of Company Directors has announced a partnership with the Federal Government to deliver a second round of its Board Diversity Scholarship program, which is aimed at increasing the representation of women on Australian boards.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a snapshot of the country’s nursing and midwifery workforce, finding that while their numbers continue to grow, it’s failing to keep to keep pace with the growing population.
Fair Work Australia (FWA) has handed down the first Equal Remuneration Order, detailing how the social and community sector workers will receive their pay rises.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has tracked a continual downward trend in job vacancies in the May quarter, with the bureau finding vacancies had fallen by 6.1 per cent in May compared to the same time last year.
The Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committees is to conduct an inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart Allowance payments for jobseekers.
Employees take fewer sickies if they have more control over their jobs, according to a new study undertaken by a researcher and orthopaedic surgeon into long work absences due to lower back pain.
Associate Professor Markus Melloh, from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and The University of Western Australia, was lead author on the internationally collaborative report: "Predictors of Sickness Absence with a New Episode of Lower Back Pain in Primary Care".
He found the best way to prevent long absences from work (up to six months) due to lower back pain was to give employees a sense of empowerment and to ensure that their GPs followed up with them on a regular basis after their first appointment.
Associate Professor Melloh said patients with first-time lower back pain should see their doctor again after six weeks, otherwise their risk of long-term sickness absence could be missed by their GP and interventions, such as modifying their work situation, would not be implemented.
The study showed that workers with high job control had fewer days of sick leave when suffering from a new episode of back pain than others with lower job control, he said.
"For the first time, the risk of prolonged sick leave for people complaining of back pain can be averted by simple short-term measures such as talking to their supervisor, changing work hours and modifying work breaks. Long-term measures include greater empowerment within a job, such as more decision-making by the worker.
"Sickness absence due to an ongoing pain condition is a hot topic in Australia and throughout the world for a number of reasons," Associate Professor Melloh said.
"Australia has a shortage of skilled workers. Prolonged absence may lead to unemployment and reduced employability of a worker, and also indirect health care costs increase when workers are absent for too long."
The study monitored 310 patients who went to their GPs with back pain and took days off work. They were interviewed during the initial visit then followed up at three, six and 12 weeks and six months. At six months, 164 people were still participating and seven per cent were still on sick leave.
Associate Professor Melloh said back pain was a very important issue in Australia because the back was the most common site of pain for people of working age, from young to middle-aged adults.
The research has recently been presented at the World Forum for Spine Research in Helsinki.
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) has completed its submission to the Australian Law Reform commission’s Issue Paper GreyAreas – Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, concluding that the mature-age workforce is central to boosting the country’s productivity.
A survey of health workers, including nurses, doctors and community service workers, has found that they are less confident about their workplace safety than construction workers.
The Federal Government has passed legislation that will create the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), which will aim to strengthen Australia’s response to the nation’s skills challenge and boost productivity. The Agency, will be led by industry representatives, and will have a key role in the allocation of a $700 million industry training fund.
The New South Wales Government has passed controversial changes to its workers compensation through the State’s Lower House. In a bid to lower the company’s $4 billion budgetary blowout, the legislation will see major changes to out of work compensation allowances, including the removal of compensation for transit injuries.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has highlighted the fact that employees who sign written contracts are still covered by the minimum conditions in the relevant award and the National Employment Standards.
Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, has met with employers in Melbourne to discuss ways to boost diversity in the workplace, particularly with an aim of boosting participation rates amongst those with a disability.
The Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee has a new inquiry into the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2012.