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Government Policies Address Workplace Stress

Stress at work – a central theme of World Mental Health Day [10 October] –will be reduced through the effects of the Employment Relations Act, the review of the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the changes to ACC, says Acting Minister of Health Ruth Dyson.

"Stress is caused by a range of factors, including job insecurity, heavy work-loads, powerlessness, poor morale, and balancing home and work. Many of these issues have become commonplace as a result of the unfair and uncaring industrial and social policies of the 1990s.

"Stress levels can be reduced, however, with increased awareness of the cause and effects, with good relations between employers and employees, and with the right incentives to promote safer and healthier workplaces.

"Employers need to be assessing the risks of exposure to stress, taking steps to avoid or reduce it, and introducing stress management training. This did not happen to any significant extent under the old Employment Contracts Act because it encouraged employers to become too narrowly focused on the immediate bottom line at the expense of all else.

"The Employment Relations Act introduces a labour relations system that encourages employers and employees to appreciate and value each other's roles and contributions. This is essential if we are to begin to reduce stress at work.

"The New ACC regime provides financial incentives for employers to create safer workplaces. We are also looking at ways to reinforce employers' obligations relating to workers' stress through the review of the HSE Act. Some recent successful court cases concerning stress at work have highlighted such a need," says Ms Dyson.

Ruth Dyson's activities this week include:
10 Oct, 3.15pm, Wellington: Launches a new EEO Trust resource for employers, including a booklet on people with mental illness in the workplace.
10 Oct, 8.00pm, Auckland: Opens "Break It Down", a mental health "roadshow".
11 Oct, 9.00am, Nelson: Addresses Mental Health Expo.
12 Oct, 12.00pm, Wellington: Mental health walk – "Stroll off Stress" – from Parliament to Civic Square (address at Civic Square)


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