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Section 3: Health and wellbeing

The obligations of employers regarding the health and welfare of their employees are regulated by federal occupational health and safety legislation. The harmonisation of Australian OH&S legislation with the introduction of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 2010 reemphasises these obligations, particularly in regard to stress and mental injury.

The Micro-Agency Snapshot assessed health and wellbeing management in three ways:

  • The UK Civil Service Health and Safety Executive Tool First Pass Tool (HSE Tool) was included in the Snapshot. This examines seven aspects of the workplace that affect employee well-being[10] and includes a set of longer-term aspirational standards—the Gold Standard—established by the HSE.[11]
  • The proportion of employees who took sick leave (planned or unplanned) or compensation leave (relating to a work-related injury or disease which has been accepted by Comcare) in the two weeks prior to them completing the Snapshot.
  • Employees were asked how well they understood health and well-being programs provided by their agency and whether they had participated in them. 

HSE Tool

Table 1 shows the results of the HSE Tool for the micro-agencies compared with the UK Civil Service Gold Standard and overall APS average.

The results for the micro-agencies are positive. On five of the seven factors, the micro-agencies scored above the Gold Standard. The micro-agencies scored slightly better than the broader APS on Control, Manager Support, Role Clarity and Change Management, although the difference was very small[12].

Table 1: HSE Tool Scores
Micro-agencies Overall APS Gold Standard

* indicates statistically significant differences between micro-agency and overall APS average scores.

Role clarity* 4.30 4.21 4.31
Relationships 4.05 4.07 4.04
Peer support 3.96 3.90 3.89
Manager support* 3.83 3.69 3.65
Control* 3.78 3.53 3.72
Change management* 3.56 3.34 3.24
Demand 3.14 3.10 3.29

Leave due to illness or injury

Figure 10 shows the percentage of micro-agency respondents who had taken leave due to illness or injury in the fortnight before the Snapshot. The majority of employees had not taken leave during this period.

Figure 10: Amount of sick leave taken by respondents

Figure 11 shows the engagement scores of those employees who had taken sick leave and those who had not. Employees who had taken no sick leave had slightly higher levels of Job and Team engagement than those who had not[13].

Figure 11: Engagement levels of employees who had taken sick leave

Health and wellbeing programs

The Snapshot asked respondent’s what they knew about the health and well-being programs offered by their agency.Table 2 shows that the majority of employees were confident about whether or not their agency offered general lifestyle and ergonomics programs but there was substantially less clarity about the other types of programs offered with over 40% of employees unsure as to whether their agency offered assistance with smoking, alcohol use, diet and exercise. Nearly one in three were unsure if their agency offered mental health programs.

Table 2: Respondents knowledge of health and wellbeing programs
Yes No Unsure
Ergonomics (e.g. workstation assessments) 95.87% 1.29% 2.84%
General lifestyle/health/fitness 60.26% 22.86% 16.88%
Mental health 38.96% 30.39% 30.65%
Exercise 25.77% 45.1% 29.12%
Smoking 10.1% 43.26% 46.63%
Diet 8.55% 51.04% 40.41%
Alcohol use 5.18% 48.7% 46.11%

Figure 12 shows the participation rates of health and well being programs[14]. Exercise programs were the most popular, with two-thirds of those who were aware of the program taking advantage of the programs offered.

Mental health and alcohol use programs had lower uptake rates of 24% and 25% respectively. Anti-smoking programs were not accessed at all by employees who indicated that their agency offered such programs. It is not clear whether this is due to a small number of smokers in the sample, or smokers choosing not to access the program.

Figure 12: Participation rates of health and wellbeing programs

Figure 13 shows the proportion of participants in each program who felt it was somewhat or highly effective. While most programs were rated positively, alcohol-use programs were reported as less effective. However, this may be an underestimation as only a small number of employees accessed alcohol-use programs, and not all chose to rate its effectiveness; these results should be viewed with some caution.

Figure 13: Satisfaction with health and wellbeing programs

In summary, micro-agency health and well-being scores are generally favourable on internationally benchmarked measures and several agency sponsored health programs are popular and effective.