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Work health and safety

Management of WHS

A range of initiatives were introduced throughout 2019-20 to continue to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, including:

  • lightweight cameras – new cameras weighing 45% less than existing equipment were evaluated and purchased to reduce the risk of handling heavy broadcast cameras, a leading cause of injury
  • bushfire crisis – wellbeing checks were conducted proactively by EAP counsellors for affected staff, and a new online Wellbeing Hub provided information and resources for staff about managing the anxiety, stress, fatigue and financial pressures arising from the crisis
  • Cybersafety Steering Committee – a collaborative committee was established to proactively manage the growing risks of social media and online trauma, including cyber bullying and exposure to traumatic online material
  • COVID-19 – a comprehensive WHS program was developed to manage the unique challenges of COVID-19 for staff working in the office, in the field and at home.
  • Trauma Programs Manager – The Trauma Programs Manager role was upgraded, with a full-time registered psychologist to lead staff trauma and wellbeing programs.

Health and safety committees

Twelve WHS Committees operate across the ABC. A total of 174 members participate in the committees and 92% of the workforce has committee representation. The remainder are represented by Health and Safety Representatives or other agreed arrangements.

Work-related WHS incidents

In 2019-20, a total of 185 work-related incidents were reported (179 in 2018-29).

Four incidents were notified to Comcare by the ABC. An incident is notifiable to Comcare if it results in death, medical treatment as an inpatient in a hospital, immediate treatment for a serious injury, infection with a prescribed illness, or if it involves a dangerous occurrence. The ABC must ensure notification is made to Comcare, and the ABC Board, immediately after becoming aware that a notifiable incident has occurred.

Work-related WHS incidents: severity of incident

Severity of Incident

1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020

1 July 2018 – 30 June 2019

Work Related Incidents

% of total

Work Related Incidents

% of total

Near hit incident / no treatment required

53

29%

50

28%

First aid treatment only

37

20%

32

18%

Lost time injury/illness – off work for one full day/shift or more

15

8%

13

7%

Medical treatment (from a medical doctor) – off work for less than 1 full day/shift

15

8%

33

18%

Precautionary treatment (from an allied health practitioner e.g. Physio)

32

17%

30

16%

Report Only – no treatment

33

18%

23

13%

Fatality

0

0%

0

0%

Total

185

100%

179

100%

Notices and investigations

Comcare has the power to conduct an investigation into an ABC workplace at any time to ascertain whether the requirements of WHS legislation are being complied with, regarding a breach or suspected breach, or concerning an accident or dangerous occurrence.

During 2019-20 there were no investigations conducted by Comcare as a result of any Comcare-notified incidents.

Workers compensation claims

Of the 185 work-related incidents reported in 2019-20, eight resulted in workers’ compensation claims being accepted by Comcare (compared with 18 in 2018-19). Analysis of the accepted claims in 2019-20 shows injuries/conditions were primarily due to mental stress, followed by physical injuries from falls or body stressing in the workplace or in the course of work.

Number of claims by mechanism of incident group

Mechanism of Incident Major Groups

2019-20*

2018-19

2017–18

2016-17

2015-16

Falls, trips, and slips of a person

2

8

2

1

4

Being hit by or hitting an object

-

2

2

1

3

Body stressing

1

4

4

10

17

Stepping, kneeling, or sitting on objects

-

-

-

-

1

Mental stress

5

3

-

3

1

Being assaulted

-

-

-

1

-

Vehicle accidents

-

-

1

-

1

Other/Unspecified

-

1

1

1

-

TOTAL CLAIMS

8

18

10

17

27

Average cost-to-date (2019–20)**

$37,932

$44,622

$83,622

$41,317

$30,797

* Data is immature and the ultimate number and cost of accepted claims may differ from the data reported, as new claims may be lodged in a later period. Data is accurate as at 30 June 2020.

** Claim costs are based on estimates as at 31 March 2020.

Workers compensation premiums

The ABC’s workers’ compensation premium for 2019-20 was $2,376,564 (ex GST). Comcare have provided the ABC with an indicative premium calculation for the 2020-21 year of $2,705,273.

The overall Commonwealth premium rate for all Commonwealth Agencies decreased from 1.06% to 0.85 % in 2019-20.

The ABC’s indicative prescribed premium rate for 2020-21 is .57% (up from .53% in 2019-20). The slight increase reflects the costs of claims across the scheme and higher than expected ABC claims costs for the 2018-19 year.

ABC workers compensation premium rates (as at 8 May 2020)

ABC performance against all Australian government agencies combined

Premium rates

2020-21

2019-20

2018-19

2017–18

2016–17

ABC premium rates

0.57% (indicative)

0.53%

0.66%

0.76%

1.31%

Premium rates - all Australian Government agencies combined

Not yet released

0.85%

1.06%

1.23%

1.72%

Mental health in the workplace

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was available to all ABC employees and their immediate family members during 2019-20. The service is provided by Converge International and comprises confidential short-term counselling service for a broad range of personal and work-related issues, in addition to specific advice through CareerAssist, ManagerAssist, MoneyAssist, FamilyAssist and LegalAssist. All EAP services are available 24/7 both locally and internationally.

During 2019-20, ABC staff were provided with access to additional dedicated telephone helplines offering specialised support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those who identify as LGBTQI, people experiencing domestic and family violence, people with disabilities and those who care for them, and employees who care for older people. The ABC Trauma and Resilience Program provided services for employees affected by potentially traumatic events in the course of their work, and peer-to-peer psychological first aid was available through the Trauma Peer Support program. At the end of 2019-20, there were 74 peer support leaders across the organisation.

Employees appointed to international bureaux are provided with a dedicated clinician for the duration of their appointment, and in 2019-20 the ABC continued to offer professional assistance and counselling services through redundancy and career transition specialists Trevor-Roberts.

Enforceable Undertaking

The ABC entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in June 2020 in connection with underpayments to some ABC employees.

The underpayments resulted from the practice in some areas of the ABC of paying casual employees flat rates of pay designed to be high enough to compensate for penalty rates and overtime provided for by the Enterprise Agreement. In some cases the flat rates were insufficient to do this and resulted in people being paid less than they were entitled to.

The ABC took immediate steps to rectify the error and improve its systems to ensure future compliance. The ABC has also apologised to impacted current and former employees.

In total, 1,907 ABC employees were underpaid $12,029,038. The ABC has paid affected employees 5.25% interest on back-payments, superannuation, and 5.25% interest on superannuation.

As part of the EU, the ABC has committed to a number of measures to ensure future compliance with Commonwealth workplace relations laws, including:

  • Provisioning an independent audit to identify past and current impacted staff, with the audit methodology subject to independent review;
  • Ongoing monthly engagement with the FWO regarding the progress of the audit;
  • Rectification of all underpayments to past and current employees, and the provision of reimbursement of costs associated with seeking independent financial advice for employees owed $15,000 and above;
  • Implementation of an electronic record keeping system to accurately record rosters and actual time worked for all staff;
  • Ensuring that all future offers of employment will include an anticipated classification level, schedule, band, pay point, and an hourly rate or salary range, as applicable;
  • Provision of training to responsible individuals regarding the rights and responsibilities of employers under relevant Commonwealth workplace laws and instruments; and
  • Provisioning annual audits conducted by an independent expert to confirm ongoing compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws.