ASK RENATA

Since the pandemic we have a leave crisis at work. Management say they're unable to approve any before February next year, and if more than a single day is required, we must wait until May 2024. When challenged management will only say 'they’re ‘working to fix the problem’. As HSR, can I issue a PIN on this?

Inability to access leave can have negative health impacts; it is therefore an OHS issue, as much as an industrial one.

It's arguably not unreasonable for an employer to block out a short period where access to planned leave will be restricted, as an employer in the retail sector may need to do in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but preventing access to planned leave for the period of time you describe, is excessive.

To recover from stress and recharge workers need time off. Prolonged work without rest increases our exposure to anxiety, depression, and burnout as well as physical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

Lack of rest can also weaken our immune system, making us susceptible to illnesses and infections.

Work-life balance is critical for mental and emotional health. Conflicts between work demands and personal life can negatively impact our relationships and ability to participate in social events.

Employers should enable the taking of leave, as part of their Section 21 duty to provide and maintain a safe work environment and safe systems of work, and while issuing a PIN is not the only avenue to addressing the problem, it certainly is a legitimate path.

VTHC believes PINs should be used whenever consultations over an occupational health or safety problem have not been successful.

The Act requires HSRs first consult with the employer, or their nominated representative, about what the problem is, asking them to fix it.

See Resolution of Issues

If your employer doesn't want to meet, doesn't agree there’s a problem, doesn't, won't  or can’t fix it (or simply keeps putting it off) then section 60 of the Act gives you the power to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice.

HSRs issue a PIN when the employer is contravening a provision of the OHS Act, or any of the Regulations.

In this case, section 21(1) is being breached, and we suggest referring to our webpage, A PIN and how to use it for further guidance. Remember that for issues representing an immediate threat to health and safety, HSRs have the power under section 74 of the Act to direct that work should cease. HSRs are required to consult with the employer prior to issuing such a direction but can go ahead even if the employer does not agree (see Resolution of Issues). Additionally, every worker has a common law right to withdraw themselves from an unreasonable threat to their health or safety.

It is also worth noting that the impending enactment of Psychological Health Regulations in Victoria is a significant development.

These regulations will compel employers to have written prevention plans in place if one or more of the following psychological hazards are identified in their workplaces: aggression or violence, bullying, exposure to traumatic content or events, high job demands, or sexual harassment.

It may be helpful to flag the impending regulations in negotiations with your employer and make it known that it is in their best interests to get ahead of the game and commence consultation on prevention planning because they will soon be compelled to do so anyway.

You can learn more about the impending commencement of psychological regulations on our video, ‘Psychological health Regulations Briefing.,’ and our Psychosocial Hazards page provides additional information.

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