Research

ACTU survey: Australian workers face insecure work, threats and violence

According to a recent ACTU survey, a shocking 67 per cent of injured or ill insecure workers reported not taking time off because they feared it would negatively impact their job, and 60 per cent reported not taking time off because they had no paid leave available.

The survey also found that only a quarter of insecure workers felt that they had adequate support to return to work after an injury, compared to 61 per cent of permanent employers.

Fear of reprisal from employers creates an environment where insecure workers compromise their health and safety to keep their jobs. Half of insecure workers – compared to only 32 per cent of permanent workers – did not report a workplace sexual harassment incident because they were worried about negative consequences for themselves.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said, “Insecure work doesn’t just have massive social and economic consequences. It creates a dangerous work environment, when people don’t feel they have the adequate support to report a hazard or take time off when they’re sick or injured."

The survey also found that threats to mental health and workplace violence are high on the list of occupational health and safety risks faced by Australia’s workers. Mental health continues to be the fastest growing challenge to the safety of working people in their workplaces, as well as ‘appalling’ rates of workplace violence experienced by the pandemic’s frontline workers.

Approximately one in six (17 per cent) workers reported they had experienced mental health injuries as a result of their work, with 10 per cent saying they were regularly bullied. Over half (56 per cent) of healthcare workers said understaffing in their workplace was causing overwork, leading to stress. Almost one in three (30 per cent) said they skip entitled meal or rest breaks, the highest in any industry. And almost half (47 per cent) of healthcare workers said they or their colleagues have been exposed to violence or threats of violence in the workplace. Over three quarters (76 per cent) of healthcare workers said they or their colleagues experienced traumatic events, distressing situations or aggressive clients at least some of the time, the most of any industry. 
Source: ACTU Media releases

USA: Frontline workers more likely to get infected

A US study has confirmed that one's job is a major factor in determining whether they will have tested positive for COVID-19, with all frontline workers more likely to have been infected.

Researchers from the universities of Wisconsin and Ohio State used national data from over a million US respondents to a Facebook-Carnegie Mellon University survey administered from September 2020 to March 2021 to estimate the likelihood of frontline workers, compared to non-frontline workers, ever testing positive for Covid-19 (SARsCov-2) or having had a positive test the previous two weeks.

After taking account of other factors, “both healthcare and non-healthcare frontline workers had higher odds of having ever tested positive for SARsCov-2 across the study time period. Similarly, non-healthcare frontline workers were more likely to test positive in the previous 14 days. Conversely, healthcare frontline workers were less likely to have recently tested positive.”

The authors conclude: “Our findings suggest that occupational exposure has played an independent role in the uneven spread of the virus. In particular, non-healthcare frontline workers have experienced sustained higher risk of testing positive for SARs-Cov-2 compared to non-frontline workers.” They recommend: “Alongside more worker protections, future COVID-19 and other highly infectious disease response strategies must be augmented by a more robust recognition of the role that structural factors, such as the highly stratified US occupational landscape, have played in the uneven toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.”  
Read more: D Phuong Do, Reanne Frank. US frontline workers and COVID-19 inequities [Full article], Preventive Medicine, volume 153, 106833, 2021. Source: Risks 1017 

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