Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3206 ..
impacted their mental health. The young workers strategy recognises that mental health is a major aspect of WHS. A poor understanding of psychosocial hazards by employers can increase the risk of bullying and harassment. When employers do not manage these hazards, they can lead to psychosocial injuries. The strategy recommends that increasing the awareness of WHS obligations among duty holders will improve compliance. This will lead to better workplaces and greater mental wellbeing among young workers.
Madam Speaker, every Canberran deserves to work in safe and decent environments. We need to be doing more to protect young workers from unsafe work practices and exploitation. Implementing this strategy shows that we value our young workers and care about their health and wellbeing. As a government, we should always be leading the way on improving and protecting the rights of workers, and that means young workers.
MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (10.18): I thank Mr Gentleman and WorkSafe ACT for this excellent initiative to protect young workers in the ACT. The Greens believe physical and mental workplace health and safety should underlie all other aspects of work. This means all workers have a right to both be safe and feel safe at work, irrespective of their age and enthusiasm. It is really welcome to see the regulator creating a specific strategy to benefit the safety and wellbeing of young people, who have been disproportionately impacted by the lockdowns over the last couple of years. We know the extent of this exposure thanks to the fantastic efforts of the Young Workers Centre and the work they have done to collect the stories and evidence of young workers.
We know that around 75 per cent of young workers are in insecure jobs. This makes it very difficult for them to speak up about their rights at work, including their right to a safe workplace. It is important to underscore from the outset that insecure work is one of the biggest predictors of workplace injury. As ANU researchers have reported, insecure workers come to work sick, they continue working whilst injured, they conceal OH&S accidents and they forgo health interventions.
It is important not to victim-blame, especially when young workers are involved. Employers must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for creating safe workplaces, and regulatory intervention must be directed accordingly. Due in no small part to insecure employment, young Canberrans are reporting workplace injuries at alarming rates, with more than one-third of the respondents to a 2021 survey reporting being injured at work in the past year. Unsafe workplaces appear to have been normalised for young people; they appear to have been treated as disposable. This is not good enough.
It is clear that regulatory action to protect young people is both urgent and timely. Young migrant workers have been left particularly vulnerable. The impact of the pandemic has left them routinely subject to exploitation in their workplaces. Without access to income support, they are heavily reliant on their employers to maintain an income. The higher level of insecure work among young migrants, and the conditions of their visa arrangements, including hour caps for international students, means speaking up has been near impossible for them.