A game changer? Aspiring to the new standard on workplace mental health

A game changer? Aspiring to the new standard on workplace mental health

By Aon
28 September 2021
Partner Content

Work health and safety regulators have been more active in the area of mental health risks over the last two years, following a review of the model work health and safety laws.

A wealth of guidance material, codes of practice and amendments to regulations have been produced to assist businesses to understand and reduce the risk of psychological injuries at work.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution for workplace mental health and wellbeing. With new apps and other standalone innovations constantly entering the market, there’s no shortage of approaches organisations can take. But with so much choice, developing a strategy that’s right for organisations can feel like a complex and overwhelming task.

In this context,  it is welcome news that an international standard ISO 45003:2021 has recently been developed and released to help provide a comprehensive guide for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to supporting mentally healthy workplaces.

This is the first international standard on psychological risks and has the potential to be a major game-changer for how organisations approach workplace mental health.

The new standard explained

Developed by the International Organization for Standardization, an independent, non-governmental international organisation, the ISO 45003:2021 standard is designed to prevent work-related psychological injury and ill health of workers and to actively promote wellbeing within an occupational health and safety management system.

ISO 45003:2021 is suitable to implement for every organisation providing guidance on the management of psychosocial risk, as part of their work health and safety management policies. The ISO 45003:2021 standard is also suitable for organisations that have not yet implemented a WHS management system.

The ISO 45003:2021 standard can be helpful for very small organisations and will assist in prioritising risk-based approaches to tackle the root causes of psychological ill-health rather than just addressing the reactive impacts of psychosocial risk.

The new standard as a game changer for business

In Australia, there is approximately $12 billion per year in reduced workforce productivity and sick leave absences related to mental health issues.

It is clear that the arrival of the ISO 45003:2021 standard is both timely and relevant. There has never been a more pivotal moment in time for organisations to make the changes needed from the experiences and challenges over the last 18 months.

The workplace stress of adhering to ever changing pandemic restrictions and requirements, and the effect of workforce and workplace changes such as home schooling, workload, work patterns, role clarity, loss of work, reduced hours or income, and other significant workplace change has been immense. The impact of the pandemic has left organisations feeling confused on how best to manage employee mental health and reduce workplace psychosocial risk both now and in the future.

ISO 45003:2021 offers best practice and practical advice on managing employees’ psychological health at work and managing or mitigating psychosocial risk. Workplace psychosocial risk factors may affect a workers’ psychological response to their work. These can include things such as working relationships with supervisors and colleagues, work demands, work patterns, work environment, role clarity, recognition and change management.

The risk of psychosocial harm, mental health issues and employee wellbeing is very real for some organisations now and is likely to continue to be in the future, and these organisations are urged to consider their risk exposure and do what’s possible to mitigate risk ahead of greater regulatory compliance and stakeholder scrutiny.

Supporting mental health in the workplace has never been so critical and understanding and meeting the ISO 45003:2021 standard will enable organisations to become more resilient and adaptive going forward.   

To learn more, register for the webinar - ISO 45003: Guidance for reducing mental health risk at work.

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