Work Options News


Information of interest to our Clients and for the industry

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What does Australia’s drug and alcohol use mean for your business?

The Australian Government has just released the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019, which has revealed some interesting new trends in drug and alcohol use in Australia.

The results provide mixed news for employers when it comes to ensuring that they meet their obligations of maintaining a healthy, safe and productive workplace.

Some of the key trends include:
Fewer Australians are smoking
In 2019 11% of Australians surveyed were smoking daily, which was down from 12.2% in 2016. This downward trend was driven primarily by the younger generation turning their backs on smoking. However, they are increasingly using e-cigarettes.
Almost 58% of smokers said that the cost was motivating them to quit or cut back on their smoking.

This could be good news for employers – fewer breaks, healthier workers and as a result, less sick leave.

More Australians are giving up or reducing their alcohol intake as a result of health concerns
Between 2016 and 2019, the proportion of Australians surveyed who had given up alcohol had risen from 7.6% to 8.9%. The main reasons given for giving up alcohol were health concerns, such as weight loss and the desire to avoid hangovers.

Unfortunately, though, there has been little change in the proportion of Australians drinking at risky levels. In 2019, 25% of Australians were still drinking at risky levels at least once a month.

This highlights the importance for employers of ensuring that managers and supervisors remain vigilant in recognising the signs of employees who could be affected by the misuse of alcohol at home or at work, resulting in reduced productivity and the risk of work accidents.

More than 2 in 5 Australians survey had used an illicit drug in their lifetime and cocaine use is at the highest levels in almost 2 decades
In 2019, the most commonly used illicit drug was cannabis, with 11.6% of Australians using it in the last 12 months and 4.2% of Australians using cocaine in the last 12 months. The use of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy all increased between 2016 and 2019.

This is a concerning trend for employers, as regular use of illicit drugs affect an employee’s work performance and pose a risk to others in the workplace. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace, so it is important to ensure all your managers and supervisors are well trained in recognising the signs of drug and alcohol use and how to manage it. To ensure your managers are appropriately trained in drug and alcohol management, visit.

However, rates of substance abuse are falling among the younger generations.
Younger people today are less likely to drink, smoke or use illicit drugs, which may be because they simply have different habits or are more health conscious than older generations. Whilst rates of illicit drug use rose among older age groups over the period, only 1.2% of those aged 20-29 drank alcohol on a daily basis and rates of illicit drug use remained stable for those in their 30s and fell for those under 30.

This pattern could be positive news for employers taking on new employees early in their careers, as it seems they are less likely to have issues of substance abuse that could result in low productivity or risk of work-related accidents that could affect others.

Levels of smoking and use of illicit drugs vary depending on socioeconomic groups
Although smoking rates have fallen across all socioeconomic areas, those living in the most advantaged areas have fared the best. People living in the lowest socioeconomic areas who smoked on a daily basis were almost 4 times higher than those in the highest socioeconomic areas (18.1% vs 5%).

However, when it comes to recent drug use, those in the highest socioeconomic areas have the highest rates of recent drug use.

For more details of the 2019 survey, read the full report

These changing trends in drug and alcohol use present an important picture for businesses responsible for workplace health and safety. Whilst some of the trends are encouraging, others are a reason for concern. Understanding how different age groups and socioeconomic groups are using drugs and alcohol could be an important aspect of recognising the potential signs of misuse and managing potential problems in the workplace.

To ensure that your managers and supervisors have the appropriate training to
manage drug and alcohol misure in the workplace, visit Work Options or contact us today.

How to boost business performance through an employee counseling program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides employers with a positive and proactive means of assisting employees who may be struggling with juggling personal and/or work-related issues. It involves the provision of personal counselling services, either in person or over the phone to help them work through their issues and result in a happier, more positive approach to their work. But did you know that an EAP can boost your business performance?

Here are six ways an EAP can boost staff and business performance and create a more productive and happier work environment:

  1. Decreased absenteeism and presenteeism and improved productivity
    Stress is one of the leading causes of reduced productivity at work. When employees are distracted by personal or work-related concerns, their minds aren’t on the job. In 2016, it was estimated that the Australian economy lost $34 billion a year in lost productivity due to presenteeism. An EAP can help tackle such issues and keep employees positive and engaged in the workforce.
  2. Improved employee engagement and retention
    Employees who have access to an EAP are more likely to be engaged in the workplace and more likely to stay with the same employer long-term.
    Employees feel more connected to an organisation who has supported them through difficult times and see this as a valuable part of their compensation.
    Happy employees are more likely to stay!
  3. Increased employer profitability
    On average, every worker takes three days off a year due to stress.
    According to a report by price Waterhouse Coopers, this costs the industry $11 billion a year. In contrast, employees who are at work, engaged and productive result in a return on investment for the employer and reduced claims costs. A 2017 study by Flanagan & Ots revealed that employers can expect a return on investment of 5-10 times what they initially invested.
  4. Improved management efficiency
    Managers are not always qualified or comfortable offering hands-on support to employees who are struggling with personal issues and can be quite time- consuming. Employees who have access to EAP services are more likely to get the qualified assistance they require, which can free up a significant amount of time and energy for managers.
  5. Improved morale and happier employees
    When a member of your team is struggling with personal or work-related issues, you may have to step in and pick up some of their workload. As a result, not only is your colleague struggling, but now you may be too. This doesn’t make for good morale and a happy workforce. Having access to an EAP enables employees to work through their issues and better themselves without adversely impacting on others, creating an overall happier and productive environment.
  6. Benefits to the employee
    EAPs enable employees to have free access to mental health services to help them resolve any issues that are impacting their lives. In addition, they can remain confidential and set up at a time that is convenience, either in person, over the phone or online.

Employee assistance programs are a proactive and preventative approach that enable early detection and resolution of work and personal problems and improve your bottom line.

To find out more about the benefits of an employee assistance program and how to implement one for your organisation, visit or contact WorkOptions

Top 12 essential elements of a Safety Management Program

Different industries all take different approaches to safety management systems.
Whether you’re a small to medium sized business or a large employer with thousands of employees, you need a thorough and well-documented safety management system to ensure that you and your employees are safe.

To establish a successful Safety Management Program, here are 12 essential elements to include:

  1. Planning
    Planning should be the first key component of any safety management program, whether you use a paper-based safety statement or dedicated WH&S software. This will help ensure that your organisation stays abreast of all the current Australian work health and safety rules and regulations.
  2. A means of distributing up-to-date documents
    This could be done via Google drive, another similar platform or simply on paper, but you need to have a system to ensure that up-to-date documents are distributed to the right people. Ideally, your system should have a user- friendly interface so that employees can easily understand what’s required. A great app we like to use is Safety Culture.
  3. Safety inspection checklists
    These checklists will help establish a baseline for the quality of inspections over time, regardless of who is undertaking them, and provide data on any areas that are either improving or declining over time.
  4. Risk assessments
    Risk assessments will help you protect your employees from potential harm and your business from potential fines or lawsuits by establishing areas of potential risk and being able to monitor their safety over time.
  5. An emergency response system
    Although you will hopefully never have to use it, it is important to have one in place just in case. It should include how to report an emergency; evacuation procedures and assembly points; procedures for shutting down operations; rescue and medical duties for workers assigned to perform them and contact details for individuals with more information.
  6. A training program and documentation system
    Employee safety programs will be tailored to your specific industry, but may include the likes of fire and earthquake drills, accident simulations and first aid. These training programs can save lives in the event of an emergency and prevent any further safety hazards. Remember, poorly trained staff can put an organisation at risk. It is good practice to keep documentation of all your training.
  7. An internal audit and safety schedule
    Health and safety audits are a good way to make sure you comply with health and safety laws. They can also help identify any strengths and weaknesses in your safety management program. These can be performed by either an internal or external auditor and should take place on a regular basis. They should be documented and used to develop new safety initiatives based on the recorded data.
  8. Have a list of laws and health and safety regulations on display for employee reference.
    This will assist with awareness of the laws and regulations and should be displayed in a prominent position.
  9. Establish an experienced safety management team
    This team will help ensure that your safety management program is being implemented on a daily basis. They will focus on preventing accidents and injuries, implementing guidelines and regulations and monitoring compliance. They will be tasked with implementing regular risk assessments, training staff and identifying hazards and will be key to making sure your workplace is safe and compliant.
  10. Establish measurable performance metrics
    These metrics will help you identify any areas in need of improvement and trends over time. There are many health and safety KPIs, but they include the likes of Lost Time Rate, Accident Rate and Working Days since last incident.
  11. Regular communication and management review
    Regular communication with staff is critical to ensure understanding and collaboration and can reduce confusion in the case of an emergency. It is important that your safety management program is reviewed regularly by senior management to ensure that it’s up-to-date and provide opportunities for continuous improvement.
  12. Certification
    Ideally, your system should be certified by a trusted third party to ensure that it is fit for purpose. A strong safety management program will help your organisation build confidence with your staff and customers, as it demonstrates that you are committed to workplace health and safety. These key components of a Safety Management Program should see you well placed to decide what system works best for your organisation. There is no one best solution, as every organisation has its own unique needs and requirements. To find out more about establishing a successful Safety Management Program, visit Work Options  or contact us  today to discuss a tailored plan for your business.

These key components of a Safety Management Program should see you well placed to decide what system works best for your organisation. There is no one best solution, as every organisation has its own unique needs and requirements.

To find out more about establishing a successful Safety Management Program, visit Work Options or contact us today to discuss a tailored plan for your business.

Is burnout costing your business? Here’s what to do about it.

Picture this… you’re the GM or CEO of a booming commercial company; you’re well connected and well respected within the industry; you rise above any challenge, find superior solutions to any problem, exceed all expectations and the business thrives because of it; you’ve got a nice little holiday home, drive a European car and fly business-class. But here’s the problem… the holiday home sits empty because you work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year; you rarely see your kids before they’re in bed, only ever eat on the run and haven’t been on a date with your partner in months; you’re gaining weight at a steady pace and even the strongest pain-killers are no longer easing your migraines; you can’t take your mind off work, feel as though your constantly putting out fires, and you’re stress levels are through the roof. So is it all worth it?

While studies into burnout have been happening for years, acknowledgement and awareness have only recently become more prevalent within Australian businesses, with workers from the CEO to the receptionist and cleaner often ignoring its symptoms. But not only is burnout affecting the lives of those experiencing it, it’s also costing businesses billions of dollars each year in absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents and injury.

And this is a problem! Job burnout is associated with work stress and is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, usually involving a sense of reduced achievement, which can be related to health conditions such as depression, illness and disease. Symptoms can include becoming cynical or critical, irritability and/or impatience, decline in productivity and concentration, fatigue, lack of satisfaction or physical illness. So whether you’re the CEO of this particular booming business, or you recognise symptoms in your employees, it’s so important that they are not ignored.

Here are some key areas to focus on:

Lack of control – do workers have control of their own schedule, projects or workload? Do workers have all the resources they need to do their job?
Role and expectations – do workers clearly understand their role and expectations, how much authority do they have and do they feel valued?
Demands – are workers able to cope with the demands and workload of their role?
Relationships and support – do workers have positive working relationships, with open communication, with co-workers and managers? Do manager’s micro-manage work? Are workers receiving encouragement and support for a job well done?
Organisational change – if change or restructure is taking place, are workers well managed and effectively communicated to?
Activity extremes – is the job monotonous or chaotic? Both can lead to burnout.
Work-life balance – does the job take up so much time and effort that a worker is missing out on time with friends or family, or doesn’t even have the energy to take part in activities outside of work?

It’s important to remain object and keep and open mind when you consider these questions… because at the end of the day, health is more important than ticking an item off your to do list.

“Presenteeism is a concept that describes people being present at work but not productive. Current research shows this to be a $33 billion loss to Australian industry.”

If you’ve realised that burnout is in fact prevalent in your workplace, take action! There are plenty of small things which can help:

Evaluate the options – what is priority 1 on you or your workers to do list? Work together to determine expectations, problems and solutions, what needs doing now, and what can wait. Be realistic.
Get help – reach out to support networks: co-workers, family and friends. Anyone who might be able to assist either in collaborating you to get the job done, or provide you with some stress-relief. An Employee Assistance Program is a great tool to provide counselling, support and useful techniques to manage stress and build resilience.
Take your mind off it – try a relaxing activity or hobby that might assist in taking your mind away from work, even for 10 minutes.
Exercise ¬– there’s a lot of research proving that exercise is a great stimulant for improving mental health. Get moving!
Rest ¬– as with exercise, sleep is vital to functioning at full capacity, not to mention allows you to think clearly and make good choices.
Practice mindfulness – there are plenty of Apps available which can take you through mindfulness techniques to calm and reduce stress.

So after a bit of re-prioritising, delegating and practicing some mindfulness, you’re still the CEO of a booming commercial company; still well connected and well respected; and you’re taking the family to the holiday home for the weekend, while you switch off your phone and enjoy some ‘me’ time. Because what you’ve just learnt is that well-managed workplaces are proactive about burnout, see issues as they arise and are prepared to put workplace health first.

The importance of critical incident debriefing in preventing psychological injuries

SafeWork NSW has recently circulated information highlighting the risk of crush injuries, as a result of two fatal incidents where truck drivers have died while working on or near their trucks. And it got us thinking… what about the psychological injuries caused to others who are unfortunate enough to witness incidents like these?


History tells us that high risk industries are almost guaranteed to succumb to a worker fatality at some point.


As of the 6th of June there had been 64 Australian workers killed at work in 2019. In 2018, that number totalled 157.


What history also tells us, is that for those who are exposed to or involved in a workplace incident, the first two hours are critical in assisting workers deal with their physical and emotional reactions.

And the reason being is because exposure to critical incidents can lead to significant distress; recurrent thoughts, anxiousness, mood changes, restlessness and shock. And gone untreated, distress can lead to long-term physiological issues such as Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

By providing really early intervention to a fatality or major incident on site, psychologists can counsel workers to assess their current state of mind, diagnose shock and determine if they are at risk of developing long-term psychological injuries.

Here are five critical incident management tools to assist in supporting workers:

1. If you’re in a high risk industry, prepare workers for a possible critical incident:
• Develop procedures for responding to and identifying critical incidents and ensure staff are educated and aware of procedures
• Contract suitably qualified safety consultants with experience in critical incidents and critical incident management
• Asses the workplace for safety hazards and ensure all necessary PPE is available

2. Demobilisation (rest, information and time out) is the best way to calm workers following a critical incident, ensuring their immediate needs are met as soon as possible:
• Convene with all workers, summarising the incident and clarify any uncertainties (ensure all workers have the opportunity to ask questions)
• Provide Psychological First Aid (supportive and practical assistance via assessing needs and concerns, ensuring basic needs are met and connecting people with information)
• Provide a course of action moving forward, and alter workplace responsibilities and roles where necessary

3. Defusing (immediate small group support) should be conducted by a qualified employee or external contractor and is an opportunity for workers to review the event, talk about what happened, receive advice and support. Defusing should take place within 12 hours of the critical incident occurring.

4. Debriefing as a group should take place approximately one week after the critical incident. It is an opportunity for workers to put things into perspective once they’ve had a chance to process what has happened. Often a knee-jerk reaction to a critical incident will be that ‘I don’t need to talk about it’, but often within a few days the worker may find that they are now experiencing other psychological or physical issues as a result. Debriefing allows a qualified counsellor or safety expert to assess the risk of long-term psychological injuries, determine if acute stress is present for individual workers, and can provide management techniques and tools to handle emotional reactions.

5. Follow-up support is key in psychological injuries; shock around trauma is known to manifest over time and can worsen if not addressed or spoken about. If workers find that their shock builds momentum, they are losing sleep, having recurring thoughts of the incident and are struggling to move on with every day duties, this may be a sign of a psychological injury such as acute PTSD. Workers who expressed significant concerns at earlier stages of the critical incident management process should have continual follow up support with a trained professional.

When it comes to preventing the onset of shock, and potentially acute stress or PTSD, after a critical incident, it’s recommended that all workers be involved in the critical incident debriefing process. Although many workers will be able to return to normal duties within a short time frame, if not immediately, it’s important to note that serious accidents are one of the leading causes of PTSD in Australia. But more importantly, it’s treatable and, with the right help, avoidable.

For more information or help with regards to critical incidents and psychological injuries, see our Work Health Safety Services or call 02 9957 1300.

Common Injury Management Mistakes Guaranteed to Rise Insurance Premiums

As an employer, you have a lot on your mind when a worker gets injured… I’m not going to meet the deadline; how will I get the job done now; what will this cost me; should I hire a temporary replacement?

The last thing you need to add to the stress is the cost of your insurance premiums rising because you haven’t followed the correct procedure or not acted quickly enough.

At Work Options, we see a lot of situations where an employer’s insurance premiums rise because of common injury management mistakes. Here are the top 6:

Not offering suitable duties
Offering suitable work duties is critical to the return to work process and keeping your insurance premiums down. How? Returning to work in some capacity is proven to significantly increase the chance of the worker returning to a pre-injury capacity, assisting their physical and mental recovery, in a much faster timeframe than doing nothing at all. In turn, there are less costs for medical, legal and wages.

Not acting soon enough
It’s pretty simple really… failure to report the injury will result in delays in the claim, treatment approvals and actions taken by the insurer to start the process; all costing valuable time and money, lost wages, and ultimately a slower return to work. You should notify the insurer within 48 hours of a workplace accident or injury.

Not being active in the process
We hear it from workers all the time… “My manager acts differently towards me since my injury”. Unfortunately some employers don’t take an active part in a worker’s recovery and return to work until they notice a jump in their premiums. Not only does this often lead to conflict between the two parties, but workers will feel undervalued and employers forfeit any control they have over the direction of the claim, ultimately resulting in rising premiums.

Not having a rehab provider involved in the early stages

It seems pretty obvious that complex injuries require specialist advice, support and treatment… and without it, the return to work process will take longer. Simple to do – just ask your insurer to refer. Did you know that the cost of a rehab provider does NOT go onto your claim cost?

Not making WHS a priority

Prevention is ALWAYS better than a cure! Again, it seems like a simple task but unfortunately many Australian businesses don’t implement WHS initiatives because they either lack the know-how or resources. Education, appropriate PPE and tailored WHS policies and procedures are the best way to reduce the amount of injuries which occur in your workplace, keeping insurance premiums down and reducing costs in the long run. Ever wondered why workers are repeating injuries in the workplace, or how they are aggravating existing injuries? This is all avoidable when you make WHS a priority!

Termination of injured workers
Here is the biggest mistake you can make! Firstly it is illegal to terminate an injured worker within six months of a work-related injury, due to their injury; secondly by terminating an employee within three years of a claim, your premiums are likely to escalate..

It’s easy to be frustrated when an employee is injured at work, but it’s important to act quickly, offer support and provide suitable work duties, to get the worker back to work, with minimal disruption to the business. And you should know… if suitable work duties are not provided, your insurer is required to calculate an estimate for wages to be added onto the claim, and history tells us this can be somewhere between one and up to eight years of wages!

The best option? Protect your business by engaging an experienced Return to Work Provider to help you navigate through the minefield of regulations and technical information and avoid costly mistakes.

Workplace Health and Safety Policies: employer versus employee responsibilities

It is a common misconception that maintaining a safe workplace and reducing hazards lies solely with the employer… but it’s important to note that employees have responsibilities too. Employees should be well versed in the company WHS Policy and positively contribute to a risk-adverse safety culture.

Did you know that 36% of Australian workers think that risks are unavoidable in the workplace? Or that 24% think that minor incidents are normal at work? Pretty big numbers, huh? Does this sound like people who are aware of their safety responsibilities? And employers aren’t completely innocent either… 18% think that workplace risks are unavoidable.

This is why correct policy and communication is imperative to your business. So what are the differences between employer and employee responsibilities around safety? Let’s break it down:

Employer’s responsibilities:

• Prepare, share and acknowledge the company WHS Policy and ensure all employees are aware of their safety responsibilities
• Minimise or eliminate all hazards and safety risks whereever possible
• Ensure all relevant safety legislation is adhered to, and written into the policy
• Provide all employees with appropriate training, ensuring that they can confidently and safely perform tasks
• Provide all necessary PPE and safety equipment
• Consult and communicate with employees on all things related to safety, health and wellbeing
• Have a suitable reporting process where employees can advise of any risks or health and safety concerns
• Have a detailed return to work program prepared should an injury occur
• Consult an injury management specialist as soon as an injury occurs

Employee’s responsibilities:
• Be aware of and adhere to all company WHS policies and procedures, including following safe work practices
• Wear all provided PPE and utilise safety equipment where instructed
• Report any hazards, injuries or incidents to management using appropriate reporting channels
• Take reasonable care and precautions with regard to your own safety
• Participate in all safety training and consult with a supervisor when unsure
• Report to work in a state which is fit and safe for duty

Want to change your WHS Policy for the better? Take these points, adapt them to your business and copy them straight into your policy! Because if there’s anything we’ve learnt here, it’s that no matter where you think your company’s policy stands, it could always use a health check. And not only when you’ve recruited new employees, altered job responsibilities or moved premises, but any day of the week! Adopt an ‘analyze, improve and share approach’, and create a collaborative risk-averse safety culture.

An Employee Assistance Program Story

Sarah* was into her third year working for a major Australian news publisher, was head of a small team and caught in the middle of a company-wide restructure that bought with it much uncertainty.

“There was a lot of movement happening within the company which seemed to take forever for any actual changes to be made… people were getting fed up with the lack of communication from management, worried about their job security and a lot of people ended up finding new jobs elsewhere. And they weren’t being replaced fast enough or at all so the workload was massively piling up”.

With an ever-increasing workload, a team to support and a system database crash adding to an already stressful working environment, a relationship breakdown with her boyfriend was enough to push Sarah to breaking point.

“I was burnt out. I really honestly just didn’t care anymore… as soon as I cleared my plate of one thing, another issue would come up”.

Sarah had seen the Employee Assistance Program posters around the office, and vaguely recalled the email come through advising employees of the new initiative, and decided it was time to take notice. And rightfully so.

“I called the number and was offered help straight away. They asked if I’d like a one-on-one or phone session and I took the phone option. I think I was entitled to around eight sessions which my employer paid for. I only had three though… after three I had my head in a good enough space to get myself back on track. And it was good to know I had other sessions available if I needed them later on”.

Sarah was provided with confidential counselling which offered coping strategies to deal with her work-induced stress, and offered suggestions on how to best manage work-life balance and deal with her break-up.

“The lady running the EAP gave me a bunch of coping strategies to deal with the stress at work and the reassurance that it was only temporary while the re-structure was taking place. She also helped me deal with my relationship breakdown and gave me a bit of confidence that it was okay to take time for myself”.

And Sarah credits the Employee Assistance Program for providing the support she needed at the time, in both her work and personal life.

“I am really glad that I did the EAP because I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise. Probably quit my job and have even more stress to deal with. And now I am focused again, doing well at my job and am emotionally available to me team”.

*Sarah, 26, New South Wales

For information on how an EAP can help your employees and business, see Employee Assistance Programs.

The Role of an EAP in Improving Staff Performance
When we talk about poor mental health, it’s easy to think of personal problems like family and relationship issues, financial difficulties and a myriad of other concerns that occur in our every day lives. But what should really be at the forefront of our minds is work; the act of balancing work and home life, excessive demands, pressure to perform, lack of support… if it relates to work then it without question relates to mental health.


Every year in Australia, mental health concerns equate to approximately 6% of total workers’ compensation claims.But with the growing rate of mental health cases, awareness also grows and, in turn, strategies to manage the adverse effects.


An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides employers with a positive and proactive approach to assisting workers who may be affected by personal and job related issues. It involves providing access to confidential counselling sessions, either in person or over the phone, for employees and their families, and puts them on a path towards a positive mindset.

So, how does an EAP actually improve staff performance? Let’s look at the facts because they’re alarming – poor mental health in the workplace is more prevalent than ever.

1. Each year 7,200 Australians are compensated for work related mental health concerns
2. Mental health related workers’ compensation claims cost $11 billion annually
3. People suffering from severe depression take 20 times more sick days per month than other workers

By providing our employees with a proactive platform to work through their concerns, with tailored strategies recommended by a trained professional, we encourage them to stay at or return to work, feel supported and happier. And happy employees create a positive and productive work environment! So let’s discuss some of the more specific benefits:

1. Increased employee productivity
It’s pretty simple really… when you’re mind isn’t distracted by a lengthy list of concerns, you’re more focused on the task in front of you. In a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report it was identified that Australian businesses lose around $10.9billion annually in lost productivity.

2. Increased employee retention
It goes without saying that when employees are happy at work, they’re more likely to stay there. And the confidential nature of an EAP provides an outlet for those employees who wish to be discreet when it comes to mental health issues, or don’t have the means to gain access privately. An EAP lets employees know that they are supported at work, while assisting them to gain the help they need.

3. Increased employer profits
Remember that $11billion figure? When you’re employees are at work, productive and focused, you’re getting a return on your investment. There’s no lost money on sick days, deadlines being pushed back or contributing to co-workers stress levels. In the above mentioned PricewaterhouseCoopers report, it was discovered for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, a return of $2.30 was received. And $3.60 for every $1 in the electricity, gas and water industry and $6.70 in mining.

4. Affordability for employers
The great thing about an EAP is that it can be relatively inexpensive to implement and can often cost far less than paying for a mental health related workers’ compensation claim. Consider an EAP an investment for your business, promote it to all your employees and calculate the return.

5. Positive clinical outcomes and a happier workforce
If you’ve ever had to step in to complete someone else’s task when a co-worker is off sick, you know the additional stress and ripple effect it can often create. By implementing an EAP program, not only are you helping your employees to better themselves and become happier, but the overall workforce won’t be adversely affected. A positive EAP program can often assist in creating a strong, collaborative and productive team.

For many Australian businesses, an EAP is already an integral part of their WHS strategy, implemented to assist in employee wellbeing. But for others, it can be executed as a response to an unfortunate event or used as a liability tool… but they’re missing out. Because not only does a positive EAP program provide qualified help to valuable workers who need it, it also assists employers gain back a percentage of lost absenteeism days, and ultimately improves the businesses bottom line.

The Latest Drug Trends from NDARC

Drug and alcohol use at work is becoming more prevalent than ever, with a staggering number of related workplace accidents and injury being recorded in Australia.

Not only do drugs and alcohol increase risk, but can contribute significantly to absenteeism, productivity and incidents, and potentially cost thousands of dollars in claims for the employer.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre have released the latest drug trends from their 2018 findings. View them here: Illicit Drugs Reporting and Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting.

A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health

Responsibilities at work may not always be the sole cause for poor metal health, but for some people, workload and stress can be a significant contributor. In Australia employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees are safe at work, both physically and psychologically, and can confidently perform their job without any adverse affects. So what happens when you suspect an employee is struggling mentally, and how do you approach it? Here are some steps to follow:

1.       Arrange a confidential meeting
Ensure that you arrange a confidential meeting, in an environment away from prying eyes where the person can feel comfortable. Be professional when scheduling so that you don’t further contribute to stress or anxiety.

2.       Be familiar with your workplace mental health resources
Be well versed in any company policies around mental health and resources available such as Employee Assistance Programs. Have hand-outs printed and sealed in a folder for the employee to take with them.

3.       Adopt an honest, upfront and caring approach
Start off by providing encouragement and pointing out the employees strengths and contributions that they bring to the business – it is important that they feel valued. Consider the conversation to be somewhat of a performance review where the positives are discussed first followed by concerns. Be clear in stating why you are concerned.

Be aware that your employee may not realise the impact their mental state is having on their work, feel as though their personal issues are not your concern, or alternatively they may think that everything is just fine. Be prepared to be dismissed. But if your employee is willing to open up, be supportive.

Consider asking open ended questions where the employee is able to steer the conversation in a direction they are comfortable. Ensure that you listen openly and provide encouragement. Don’t push for information which is outside of the scope of work related issues – it is not your business.

4.       Act!
It is important that you focus on solutions, not problems, and how you can help the employee in a business sense – remember that you’re not in their shoes, even if you think you have been before. Ensure that you document everything being said and consider ways of temporarily altering their job role and responsibilities to reduce pressure and workload. Offer your collected mental health resources and details about what’s included in the pack.

5.       Schedule a follow-up meeting
Don’t forget that you have a duty of care to ensure your employees are happy at work. Once the employee has had some time to digest the conversation, potentially seek help and you’ve altered their work responsibilities, check back in. If the employee’s mental state has not improved, or gotten worse, consider offering them the support of an Employee Assistance Program. Again consider their workload and responsibilities, and refer them to free phone and online resources, as well as community service providers such as doctors, psychologists and counsellors. And once again, after some time, repeat the process.


Talking to employees about mental health may seem a daunting process, but it’s the first step in taking positive strides to ensuring happy, healthy and efficient employees. And when you make mental health and wellbeing a priority in your workplace, your employees will thank you for it.

For further reading and free mental health resources, see:
Black Dog Institute: Workplace Mental Health Toolkit
Beyond Blue: Workplace Mental Health
Lifeline – Phone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – Phone: 1300 22 4636

Medicals vs. Fitness for Work Assessments (F4W©) and why they’re important for your business

“…fitting a square peg into a round hole is not only difficult, but damages either the peg or the hole” (Randolph, 2000).

Doctor provided ‘generic’ medical screens are common and relatively cheap. They usually include an assessment of hearing, eyesight, blood pressure, and a medical questionnaire, typically sourced from voluntary disclosure. But the issue with a ‘generic’ medical assessment is that they have the potential to miss important information, rule someone out unnecessarily, rule someone in who shouldn’t be, or open employers up to possible discrimination.


This is why ‘generic’ is dangerous and can actually be quite costly in the end. If a role does not require a specific function, let’s say overhead lifting, and you rule a good candidate out because they cannot lift their arm over their head, then not only have you missed out on a good candidate, but you may have exposed yourself to discrimination.


Likewise, what if you hired someone to do a physical role and they were carrying a back injury they did not disclose to the doctor, or ‘played it down’. They then aggravate their injury at your workplace, put in a valid workers compensation claim and have to stop work. This would be a disastrous outcome for both you and the employee, who is now injured and unable to work.


So how does a good Fitness for Work Assessment differ?


A good F4W© considers the actual physical and cognitive demands of the role and directly assesses a candidate’s ability to perform those tasks safely.


A good F4W© will be based on a task analysis. This is not a job description – which outlines things such as responsibilities, accountabilities or employment conditions, but rather a detailed account of the movements (like bending, kneeling, lifting), frequency of these (e.g. once/day vs 20/day), and load/force (e.g. push 25kg at waist level) required for the role. For example, the physical work an office worker does is entirely different to that of a plant operator – does it make sense for them to do the same test?


A good F4W© will be conducted by a trained allied health professional, such as an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist with experience in preventing and managing workplace injuries. These professionals understand the impact of injuries on work tasks, are trained to detect muscle weakness, poor techniques, signs of fatigue and strain and identify at-risk persons. Their recommendation is based on evidence-based clinical judgement. They can also offer reasonable and practical suggestions to allow you to engage someone with only moderate risk, such as aids/equipment or manual handling training or job modification.


A good F4W© will protect against discrimination and invasion of privacy. Asking questions or assessing things not related to the role can expose an employer to discrimination if you rule that person out based on those answers. Knowing the right questions to ask is crucial. For example, asking whether someone has had a previous workers compensation claim is fraught with danger – and does it matter anyway? What is more important is whether they can perform the role safely. Likewise, too many personal questions without valid reason can be an invasion of someone’s privacy and simply not relevant.


And long-term, a good F4W© assessment provides a baseline for determining how employees are affected by the work they do in your business. For example, an employer can assess the validity of an employee claiming industrial deafness, when in fact, they had diminished hearing prior to commencing employment.


Evidence shows that employees who are not tested for fitness for work have:

By completing an appropriate F4W© assessments, businesses can help reduce accidents, provide a safer workplace, reduce absenteeism and decrease workers compensation premiums and claims costs.


So, whilst it may seem tempting to take the cheap option, employers should consider whether this really will give you the protection and outcome you need. Or will it cost you much more in the end if you get it wrong?


Find out more about Fitness for Work services available.

Why leadership and culture is imperative to safety

Do a couple of Google searches around risk taking in the Australian workforce and it’s easy to see that not everyone has a positive attitude towards safety and injury management. Many employees, particularly in larger businesses, tend to adopt a rule breaking approach if it’s likely to get a job done faster. So how can we as Leaders alter employee perception and, when it’s not always a simple task, should we?


Absolutely we should!

The latest figures show that work-related injury and disease cost the Australian economy $61.8 billion, with 77% of that worn by employers. So really, we’re mad if we don’t!


As Leaders it is up to us to provide the foundation for a strong culture of safety for our employees. We should enforce a top-down approach, adopting a proactive leadership style and promote a positive attitude towards safety in the workplace.


So how do we achieve this? Here are 8 simple steps to get you started that will make an immediate difference to your safety culture:


  • Commit to being risk adverse – write it into your company values if you need to but ensure that you are committing fully if you really want to be a positive safety leader
  • Walk the talk – lead by example, show your employees how to be safe, raise topics for discussion, reward safety initiatives and ideas and never break the rules!
  • Keep informed and educated on safety – talk to people, read, hire an expert… do whatever you can to ensure you are well informed around safety relating to your specific industry
  • Ensure you have a policy in place – most businesses already do, but do some benchmarking to ensure it’s up to standard
  • Communicate the policy from the top down – make sure your employees understand that their safety at work is paramount and the policy is  enforced
  • Listen to your employees – ensure they are given regular opportunities to voice their concerns and can do so in an environment and with someone they are comfortable with
  • Act on issues – what’s the point in being risk adverse if you’re not going to act on the issues, right?
  • Update employees – when an employee has had the confidence to voice a concern, ensure that you keep them updated regularly on any outcomes

So at this point, you’re either ready to start making some positive changes, or you’re waiting for the punch line. Well, here it is… remember that figure? $61.8 billion!


You can’t afford not to make some changes. Throw the rule-breaking approach out the window and refuse to contribute to the statistics! You might just be surprised too because there’s no doubt you’ll also profit from the additional benefits of a strong safety culture: happier employees, higher productivity, positive business relationships, less absenteeism and reduced claims costs.

Top 5 Mistakes Employers make with Drug & Alcohol Testing in the workplace

Navigating safe workplaces

“For a workplace drug & alcohol testing program to be successful it must be clear, detailed, fair, enforceable, consistent in its application and focus on education and support.”

Many employers develop a drug and alcohol testing program with the right intentions – they want to keep people:

  • safe at work,
  • prevent dangerous and costly workplace accidents
  • maintain a good brand reputation in their market.

However, despite their good intentions, most will fail dismally!

We asked our team of workplace drug testing experts what they see as the top 5 common mistakes in drug & alcohol policies and procedures.

Here’s what they said:

  • The half-baked approach
  • Unclear procedures
  • The “catch & sack” approach
  • Inconsistency in the application of the procedure
  • Lack of training

For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Article

Work Options team attended the People’s Awards 2018 for the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW)

On Friday night the Work Options team attended the People’s Awards for the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) at Doltone House, Pyrmont.
As silver sponsors and long time providers of workplace drug testing, pre-employment fitness for work, workplace rehabilitation and employee counselling for the industry, we were delighted to see several of our customers both nominated and winning some amazing awards.
BIG congratulations to our customers for the following wins:

  • Haslin Constructions (Chris Hammond) – Project Manager <$2m
  • Abergeldie (Isabel Nobre) – Project Manager >$2m
  • Abergeldie (Carlos Lopez) – Site Supervisor of the Year
  • AWJ Civil (Martin O’Connell) – President’s Award
A highlight of the night was meeting the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, and his lovely wife Catherine.
Managing Director, Karen Castledine (left); Snr Injury Management Specialist, Diana Hurst & Regional Manager, Ben Humphreys
The team with Gladys Wood, General Manager, Haslin
Managing Employee Mental Health
Managing Employee Mental Health – ​Why It’s Good Business

Are employers responsible for the mental well-being of employees?

At some stage in their life most employees will experience some sort of personal difficulty, emotional trauma or mental health issue.

Whilst the issue may or may not be a direct result of their employment, it can have a significant impact on the employee’s ability to perform their job or, in fact, even stay in their job.

It can also affect other workers around them and impact the business in terms of decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, reduced presenteeism, loss of a skilled and valued employee, and increased recruitment costs.

For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Managing Employee Mental Health
Work Options have moved

Our new offices will allow us to better service our customers with much more room for the injury management, return to work and employment drug testing teams to work their wonders! The team are feeling very inspired with their new workstations, kitchen and breakout room, great natural light and views over North Sydney.

From our new digs we will continue to provide on-site & off-site drug testing for work, pre-employment fitness testing, EAP and workplace rehabilitation under icare workers insurance scheme, comcare and the motor accidents scheme.

Consequences of an unclear Drug & Alcohol policy

What Can Happen if your Drug & Alcohol Testing Policy is Unclear & too General – A Case Study


Imagine this…

its the evening of Melbourne Cup day, night shift has commenced and an employee reports to you that another employee has passed out asleep in a truck at work, and she smells of alcohol.

To make matters worse you discover that as a result of this, approximately 50 chickens have died. Your drug and alcohol policy says you have a ‘zero tolerance for alcohol’.


What would you do…?


For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Article

Drug & Alcohol Policy -Sept 2018

Work Options team at Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) Earth Awards

On Friday night, 8th June, the Work Options team attended the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) Earth Awards at the Hyatt Regency, Darling Harbour.

Representing Work Options was:

  • Karen Castledine, Managing Director;
  • Diana Hurst, Snr Injury Management Specialist;
  • Kaitlan Irvine, Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing Coordinator;
  • Dane Sullivan, Snr Rehabilitation Counsellor;
  • Chris Kroukamp, Occupational Therapist;
  • Matthew Mooney, Regional Manager Northern NSW.

A fun night was had by all with plenty of laughter, dancing and great company!

Congratulations to the category winners:

  • Category 1 (project value up to $2m): Piling & Civil Australia for Foundation Replacement, Burrinjuck Towers 125 and 126.
  • Category 2 (project value $2m to $5m): Antoun Civil Engineering & Sutherland Shire Council for Design and Construction of Woolooware Bay Shared Pathway – Stage 6 Taren Point
  • Category 3 (project value $5m to $10m): Diona for Design and Construction of Water and Sewer Infrastructure – Canterbury Town Centre
  • Category 4 (project value $10m to $30m): Rob Carr for Green Square Stormwater Drain Project
  • Category 5 (project value $30m to $75m): Seymour Whyte Constructions for Wyong Road and Pacific Highway Upgrade at Tuggerah

As silver sponsors and long time providers of workplace drug testing, pre-employment fitness for work, workplace rehabilitation and employee counselling for the industry, we were delighted to see several of our customers both nominated and winning some amazing awards for some amazing projects.

the winner – Darrell Wilson

Work Options was proud to be sponsor of the inaugural Safety Award for the NSW Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association awards last Friday night. We were incredibly impressed with the quality of finalists and, of course, the winner – Darrell Wilson. Darrell was a humble, yet very deserving winner.

See what the judges said below:

“Darrell was awarded for his response at high speed, in traffic on the M5, where he averted a potentially catastrophic accident which could have resulted in many deaths. Darrell was travelling on the M5 when a school bus carrying 20 children suddenly pulled out in front of him. His quick thinking response to stop the vehicle and turn the truck towards the concrete wall averted the collision. Darrell’s intention was to avoid the bus at all costs, even at his own well-being. Darrell’s driver professionalism & attention to detail, ensured that his response in this emergency situation was quick, appropriate & very highly skilled. In essence, Darrell put into practice what all heavy vehicle drivers should be doing and that is to be alert & attentive at all times.”

Work Options’ Consultant Wins Award for Outstanding RTW Achievement!

On Thursday, 2nd November the NSW Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association announced the winners of the inaugural ARPA NSW Excellence in Workplace Rehabilitation Awards.

We are very pleased to announce that Diana won the award for Outstanding Return to Work Achievement! This is a very well deserved win for Di. The case nominated had a number of complexities which required not only very strong occupational therapy and case management skills, but strong communication and a lot of ‘outside the box’ strategies to assist the worker achieve a full and sustainable RTW.

Diana automatically goes into the National Awards to be held Friday 17th November in Canberra.

We wish her all the best at the nationals!

Wellness at Work, Coffs Harbour

On Wednesday, 13th September, Work Options was pleased to be part of the ‘Wellness at Work’ event run by the Coffs Coast Safety Network.
The event was held in beautiful Coffs Harbour and attended by a strong turnout of employers interested in the health and well being of their people.
There were some really interesting talks, such as Jim Kelly, Director of Health & Return to Work, SafeWork NSW, who talked about putting the ‘H’ back into WHS. Another inspiring speaker was Becky Cole from local radio station, CHYFM, who spoke on creating a health, productive and inclusive workplace.
As exhibitors at the event it was wonderful to talk to so many local employers who genuinely wanted to improve their organisational well being. Our hats off to them!”

Customer Service Award

Work Options wins 99.33% for customer service in the 2017 Australian Achievers Awards! Well done to our wonderful, hard-working team.

Work Options Relocate Coffs Harbour Office

Work Options Coffs Harbour moves to new premises – near Coffs Jetty.

Suite 5, 4/30 Orlando Street, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Ph: 02 6651 5516

Fax: 02 9957 1311

Employers Mutual announcement

Work Options congratulates Employers Mutual on their selection as the sole Agent for NSW Workers Insurance from 2018 following a tender process with icare.

icare announced major changes to NSW Workers Insurance

icare major changes announced to NSW Workers Insurance. At 31 Dec 2017 CGU & QBE will cease as icare Agents for NSW Workers Insurance and at 31 Dec 2018 GIO & Allianz will cease. All new claims and policies will only be managed by EML from 1 Jan 2018 with existing claims being transitioned to and managed by Allianz and GIO until end 2018.

New simpler Phone Words

Work Options introduces new phone words


making it easier for our customers to request workplace drug testing.

Give us a call to organise your  Workplace Drug Testing

1300TEST4DRUGS (1300 837 843)