Health Benefits of Good Work eNewsletter July 2018

Welcome to the fifth edition of the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) eNewsletter. The HBGW message is building momentum and spreading across Australia and New Zealand. 

The HBGW Australian Signatory Steering Group (Australian SSG) and the HBGW New Zealand SSG (NZ SSG) continues to champion the integration of the HBGW message in the industry sector across the trans-Tasman. The HBGW signatory base has now reached over 230 signatories across both countries. Some of the new signatories include The Reject Shop, Qantas, Active Occupational Health Services in Australia and AIA New Zealand. 

Following the success of the HBGW Forum in November 2017, held in Perth, the HBGW Australian SSG hosted its first 2018 biannual industry forum in Queensland on Thursday, 7 June. The Forum heard from experts and peak industry representatives about what will define ‘good work’ into the next decade in the context of rapid global developments across the ‘world of work’ which present new challenges and innovative solutions. The forum explored ways to assist employers deliver ‘good work’, and harness the known health, safety and productivity gains which flow from ‘good work’ and greater employee engagement. 

If you have any initiatives or promising practices that you would like to share please get in touch with us at  

In this edition we look at the health benefits of good work, particularly for people who have a mental health condition, and the role of physicians, rehabilitation consultants and insurance systems in supporting workers’ occupational health. It also includes an account from an Australian signatory on the impact that HBGW has had on their approach to worker recovery.    

Interview with Keith Govias, National Health & Safety Manager, The Reject Shop

Contributor: Keith Govias interviewed by Suzanne Jones 
reject shop

How did you encourage The Reject Shop to become a signatory to the HBGW Consensus Statement? 
The opportunity lay in reviewing what we were already doing as a business. Much of what the consensus statement articulated was actually a codification of the practice of our business in both the compensable and non-work-related space. What took bravery was to encourage my Leadership Team and Board to see becoming a signatory to the Consensus not as a mill-stone that would inhibit our ability to make operationally sound decisions; but a statement about our value for our Team and how we display this on a daily basis.

What was the key ‘selling point’ of HBGW? 
What appealed to us most was the way the consensus statement allowed us to frame our commitment to our team. Retail is a highly competitive industry, both for customers and for recruiting and retaining talent. Becoming a signatory, in many ways helps corporations such as The Reject Shop speak to and meet corporate social responsibility frameworks.  

Our company is actually launching corporate values to our business in the new financial year and there was a close interrelationship with our value statement. Our three core value themes are team, customer and performance with accepted behaviours built around this. The consensus statement allowed us to articulate some of the corporate leadership behaviours where we value our team.  In turn, the HBGW statement also recognises the ‘community momentum’ that is building regarding the value of individual workers within society. My business also saw signing onto the consensus as an opportunity to establish a position for ourselves and to be able to articulate this to our team and also to the communities in which we work. Additionally, for the numbers focused leaders – we talked to the value savings in retaining skilled workers and reducing absenteeism and the non-tangible in team morale through feeling valued.  

Over the course of the past two years we have seen our National Worker Compensation premium costs drop by 46 per cent. In Victoria alone, our hours lost due to work injury measure has dropped from 33,000 of man hours in 2009 to 1200 in 2017 (96 per cent reduction). This is despite the fact that we have effectively grown our business and the number of workers employed.

How did you communicate The Reject Shop’s signatory status throughout the company? Internally, we have used the letter and consensus statement in intranet communications to our workers, including commentary about how we will be changing our safety documentation to remove specific framework references to 'WorkCover' or 'Non-work' injury and focus more about 'work capacity'.  

Externally, we are proud to be part of a growing network through the HBGW Consensus Forum, allowing us to collaborate with others and share or learn from best practice.

What was the staff response?
Our team, especially injured workers, has been really supportive and has appreciated the way that we speak. We will be reinforcing this into the new financial year with the launch of our Corporate Values and the Safety Behaviours that underpin these values. We have a large cohort of young workers, in many cases their first working roles. The Reject Shop views its role as also helping to shape and leave an impression with these young workers. Educating our workers on HBGW could leave a lasting impression on a transitionary workforce that will finish school and university and go off into a variety of trades and professions.

How are you currently promoting HBGW within The Reject Shop?
We are currently living the HBGW through aligned partnerships with AIA and REST Industry Super to support workers that are either straddling compensation schemes or are uneducated in the support that can help them holistically to maintain longevity at work and more sustainable social lives. We have also tapped into the Jobs in Jeopardy program and other not-for-profit public health groups to help raise awareness about different types of illness and support for injured or ill workers, build emergency response or retention plans and have specialist workplace assessments to identify reasonable modifications or ergonomic aids to help with retention. A clear example of this was accommodating the introduction of ergonomic aids and a seeing-eye dog in a South Australian store for one of our workers who suffered from several co-morbidity illnesses.

Are managers now thinking about what ‘good work’ is in The Reject Shop environment? How is this reflected?
Our training programs focus each Manager to consider capacity for work and the benefits of 'good work'. We talk to meaningful duties and review upskilling opportunities to emphasise ‘good work’ as means of retention and also a better use of time where injury restricts access to certain work tasks. For us the opportunity to build better business resilience is the way we want our store managers to view discussions about injury. We also look at this as an opportunity to work with our managers to identify innovative solutions to modify the workplace to keep workers at work. For example, some managers in a Queensland store modified a register by placing a sealed box of toilet rolls into a register cavity to raise the height of shopping baskets for taller workers. This led our IT Team and Safety Team to design a purpose built insert to fit the same cavity that we can deploy for injured workers with back injuries to prevent overreaching strain.

As a signatory you have committed to sharing the message with others – What would you tell others and how would you help them to get it across the line?
I would suggest that any manager, especially safety and worker compensation managers start by looking at their insurance and absence management costs to build a financially literate ice-breaker for a broader conversation. Understanding the impacts to the business can help start and seal the conversations; and unfortunately, most decision makers rarely react well to either large outgoing costs or actualised recoveries and returns.

In between I’d speak to managers and injured workers to look at the existing business policies and ensure actions are reflected as workplace culture. When you stop to think; most organisations in some way or form have embraced or executed partially the aims of HBGW. I would encourage others to understand these stories and the motivations for these actions to help illustrate to senior leaders that the behaviours are already being demonstrated and becoming a signatory is not largely different to what is already in practice.

What would you recommend we do to promote HBGW to employers? 
Choose employers that really get it and are engaged. Explain how the consensus statement reflects their current approach. Encourage those that aren’t quite there to network using the appropriate channels (i.e. insurer industry forums) to speak with HBGW advocates to understand how the HBGW delivers broader value propositions and can have a realised financial return.
How can service providers support employers to apply HBGW concepts?  
Providers are sometimes able to bridge the divide between the mythical 'business' and the worker as a person. Quite often they find out more about the worker’s life and other social factors that really engage the worker and could act as levers to help with workplace retention and reasonable modifications. Employers need to be coached through understanding where secondary psych risk and other social factors can lead to poorer outcomes because most employers are afraid to open Pandora’s box and talk to the worker about anything except the workplace injury or counting down to 52 weeks. Providers who are proactive in helping employers to think about positive conversations and setting up time frames based on prognosis, help the employer to consider the options required to support individuals and how this can be best managed with and across financial years.  If employers feel more in control of managing the injury within a workplace context, they are usually more prepared to engage.

How self-insurers maximise recovery at work after injury

Contributor: Robin Shaw, Chair, HBGW SSG Executive Committee
Manager, Self Insurers of South Australia
Deputy Chair, National Council of Self-Insurers

In relation to workers compensation, self-insurance describes larger employers that fund and manage their own claims under a licence or grant provided by the relevant regulator. Since inception, self-insurance has been an integral part of most Australian workers compensation schemes. The exception is Queensland, where it is a relatively recent addition.

Self-insurance is 100 per cent experience rating; or zero cross-subsidy. Meaning every dollar of cost incurred by a self-insurer through work health and safety failures or inadequate workplace management is felt immediately, rather than delayed through an insurance pool’s premium system. 

Self-insurers are not part of the workers compensation premium pool so no cross-subsidies exist to mitigate the impact of loss by spreading the cost among others in the pool. The effects of failure are felt in real time so there is an inbuilt drive to improve. Corporate culture is influenced by this model because the benefits of good workplace management are all too apparent, as are the consequences of dropping the ball – a perfect setting for the entrenchment of the health benefits of good work principles.

In self-insurance, all claim administration, return to work and recovery at work activity is carried out and/or led from the workplace. The critical communication axis is between the employer and worker. There is no distant third-party insurer or agent taking control and impacting the employer-worker relationship. 

The workplace-based nature of self-insurance confers a number of advantages:

  • The employer knows the worker – is aware of external challenges that might affect the return to and/or recovery at work and has an intimate understanding of workplace and situational risks. Risks are often controlled before they materialise, rather than reacting after the event. There is a much greater scope for ensuring that the work offered is good work, not just for injured people but for the whole workforce.
  • Suitable duties are quickly identified – there is no cessation of work, or at least no unnecessary delay beyond medical needs in commencing the recovery and return to work process. Retraining needs are also quickly identified and steps taken. This in turn maintains a sound connection between the employee, the workmates and the workplace.
  • Activity encourages workers to recover at work – managers are generally responsive to changes in the worker’s medical diagnosis, condition or situation. 
  • Direct claims administration and communication – allows shorter response times to worker requests and delivery of entitlements. 
  • Lower caseloads – allows case managers to focus directly on each claim, supported by direct knowledge of and access to the worker and workplace and capacity to deliver an individual approach.
  • Workforce consultation – on workplace injury prevention and management, policies and procedures and satisfaction surveys. Further, the system and its operation are usually subject to internal audit and external scrutiny.

There is compelling evidence that prolonged absence from work has major debilitating effects on workers and their families. I was shocked to learn that young men out of work for more than six months have a 40 times increased risk of suicide [1]. The Australian and New Zealand Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Good Work [2]  is underpinned by this evidence.

The challenge for compensable environments is ensuring people with capacity for work are not encouraged by financial entitlements to stop working and unwittingly face the very real risks to health, family and life that the research has identified.

The focus should be on early intervention and the earliest possible safe return to good work as a first priority. In my experience, self-insurers generally do not agree with the frequently stated view that open-ended benefits should be more easily available for longer periods. Our members are aware that the best interests of all parties are served by moving away from that outdated and risky viewpoint.

Most workers compensation schemes in Australia use variants of the system of assessing whole person impairment (WPI) as a means to quantify lump sum compensation for injuries and, in some cases, as a means of setting thresholds for access to various forms of compensation such as common law, extended statutory benefits, lump sums and the like. It is a far from perfect methodology, with a certain level of subjectivity. But the primary problem is that by linking financial compensation to the perceived degree of impairment, compensation legislation has an inbuilt risk to early and safe return to work. To this extent, even compensation legislation that specifically mentions the health benefits of work, as the SA Return to Work Act does, contains these inner tensions – return to work versus financial incentives to not do so.

A significant majority of work-injured people return to work as soon as they are safely able to do so with little intervention from the insurance scheme. But for others, the lure of a ‘payout’ can, if it is unchecked, lead to the various illness enhancement behaviours that are ultimately a grave risk to their well-being. This problem reaches its fullest expression in common law systems where the incentive to prove negligence and maximise perceived disability can derail return to work efforts completely in some cases.

Self-insurers take this challenge very seriously. From a pure business standpoint, loss of work capacity represents more than the claim costs – for every visible dollar of injury cost, there is about $10 or more of hidden cost. 

But the bigger story for all employers is the human aspect. Employees are valued and valuable – every business is only as good as its people. The first responsibility is to ensure that people are not injured or made ill by their work – it needs to be good, safe work. If someone is injured or made ill by their work, we must ensure that that person is supported, healed and returned safely to good work. Secondly, there must be thorough investigation of the circumstances and root causes of the injury or illness and do the necessary things to ensure that the individual is not affected again and to ensure that others are not similarly placed at risk.

Initiatives practised among self-insurers to maximise the benefits of good work are:

  • training of key staff in mental health first aid
  • mental health occupational therapy for people with known psychiatric conditions, however they are caused
  • enhance the scope and effectiveness of employee assistance programs
  • employer-funded early treatment intervention programs for people with signs of potential injury such as musculo-skeletal discomfort etc, regardless of its source, (some have physiotherapists and massage therapists visit the workplace on a scheduled basis to provide treatment and advice as needed)
  • continuous improvement systems that review the nature of each task, devise and implement engineering and ergonomic improvements to make good work better
  • formal staff consultation and complaints handling systems that include clear management accountabilities for outcomes.


  1. J.F. Ross, ‘Where do the real dangers lie?’, Smithsonian Issue 8 Vol 26 1995
  2. See for further examples Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, Dame Carol Black, March 2008 and the work of Prof Sir Mansel Aylward in the UK, who most recently wrote ‘Overcoming Barriers to Return to Work: Towards Behavioural and Cultural Change’, chapter 7 of The Handbook of Return to Work: From Research to Practice, Izabela Z. Schultz, Robert J. Gatchel (eds) ISBN 978-1-4899-7627-7. 

Total Worker Health® and the NET-POSITIVE movement

Contributor: Sara Pazell

This paper has been developed from excerpts from the following research:
Pazell, S. (Unpublished thesis: submitted for examination 31 Mar 2018): Good work design: Strategies to embed human-centred design in organisations.  University of Queensland, Sustainable Minerals Institute.

There is a peaceful and constructive social movement underway that is challenging our norms, values, and culture: the advancement of human-centred approaches (human-centred design, human factors, ergonomics, and resilience engineering) to address sustainability, health, and well-being in the workplace (e.g. Anger et al, 2015; Hammer & Sauter, 2013; Nobrega et al, 2017; Punnet et al, 2009; Schill & Chosewood, 2016). The evidence is compelling that these practices are consequential to production (e.g. Burgess-Limerick, 2010; Dul & Neumann, 2009; Stanton & Baber, 2003): one may challenge the fiduciary responsibility of any governance or leadership team not striving to adopt these approaches (not withstanding a social obligation also). A fiercely competitive business strategy is one that is human-centred (e.g. ISO Standard 27500:2016). 

Human-centred design practices are fuelled by a social goal to improve wellbeing and an economic goal to enhance system performance (Dul & Neumann, 2009). Human factors and ergonomics may add value by improving wellbeing; optimising work environments; stimulating motivation, growth, and job satisfaction; and improving performance and reward. Product users may benefit from rapid familiarisation and better experience with tools, equipment, or processes; an improved fit of work design to user characteristics and task requirements; and improved efficiency with reduced error rates (Dul & Neumann, 2009; Norman, 2013). System experts, such as engineers and designers, may discover better user acceptance of their designs and higher performance outcomes; a better fit with legislative standards for health, safety, accessibility, or ethics and sustainability objectives; and more efficient development through user consultation. Decision makers, such as managers or procurement specialists, may discover the value proposition of the practices when evaluating productivity, reduced operating costs, stimulating innovation among teams, assessing company reputation, striving for higher retention rates, and aiming to achieve well-informed and transparent decision-making. In terms of cross-functional strategies, ergonomics supports total quality management, lean production, and process engineering. At a systemic level, social and economic wealth is elevated through the practices (Dul & Neumann, 2009).

When we design work to optimise performance and achieve safety, to the point that work may be conditioning (physically and neuro-cognitively) or rewarding (organisationally), the net benefit of work engagement outweighs the challenges. This is akin to the 'Net-Positive' strategies discussed in environmental science and sustainability (e.g. Abernathy, 2018). A challenge to our Total Worker Health® initiatives is to provide for an integrated approach in sustainability, health and wellbeing, and productivity so that a Net-Positive effect occurs and becomes an expected norm. The aim is to balance the scales of work that are conditioning (in every sense: physical, neuro-cognitive / psychological, and organisational) to outweigh acute and cumulative risks and exposures (by magnitude and prevalence). The initial platform from which this social justice framework is positioned is stable: work provides meaning, structure, and routine. It reduces poverty and social exclusion, anxiety, and stress. It provides a mechanism for rehabilitation and levels social disparity. Health indicators for workers and their families are more positive than for those of non-workers (AFOEM, 2011; Waddel & Burton, 2006). Health begins where we live, learn, work, and play (World Health Organization, 2012): our jobs may be one area where health may be elevated (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). Through human-centred practices, where co-design and collaboration with workers as subject matter experts is a familiar and habitual undertaking, workers are given voice and become architects of superior systems, tools, and equipment. Heavy work is designed to be lighter, exclusive tasks become inclusive to a wider range of the population, and cognitively taxing or burdensome processes become more stream-lined to enable workers to focus on the most critical aspects of their jobs; quintessential creative skills are harnessed in a useful manner. These practices should be considered a cornerstone to any wellness programming.  

By embedding a design-focus to our work, and recognising the concept of Total Worker Health® and the Net Positive challenge, the features for which we strive in work design are more readily developed and articulated: we want work to be challenging to the 'just-right' degree, our capabilities to be well harnessed, our bodies and minds to become conditioned and improved, our social lives to be enriched, our environment to exist in harmony with our actions, and our prospects for economic prosperity to flourish. Ask your teams today: 

  • “Are they ready for the Total Worker Health® Net Positive challenge?”  
  • “What can change today to work toward that goal?”
  • “What do we dream and how shall we design that reality?”
  • “How shall we shape our destiny?”

If you would like to obtain copies of any references noted or to gain greater further information please do not hesitate to contact Sara

Australian SSG Chair Update

Contributor: Ms Suzanne Jones

The Australian SSG is now strongly representative of its stakeholders across the world of work. In the first half of 2018 we warmly welcomed new SSG members namely: 

  • Denise Cosgrove New Zealand SSG Chair. Denise’s presence on the Australian SSG Executive will strengthen the Australian/New Zealand SSG base and align our work
  • peak industry bodies, Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors (ASORC) represented by Cristina Schwenke and Heads of Workers Compensation Authorities (HWCA) represented by Rhys Bollen (NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority), Rhys takes HWCA’s inaugural rotation on the SSG
  • regional representation by Peter Dewar (Western Australia) and Pam Garton (Northern Territory). We are keen to establish national representation geographically, looking toward Queensland and Tasmania. 

The SSG was also excited to welcome Liv Hewitt (Virgin Australia), Kerry Foster (Active OHM), Roger Clarke (MunichRE), Ali McIlveen (ipar) and Alison De Araugo (Vic Roads) as Associate Members.
Below is how the SSG is structured.


Our high profile bi-annual SSG Industry Forums continue – see more in-depth articles later in this newsletter. Last November in Perth we publicly acknowledged MLCOA’s decision to become a signatory to the HBGW Consensus Statement.

Ms Corrine Law-Davis representing MLCOA, with AFOEM President Associate Professor Peter Connaughton, having signed the HBGW Consensus Statement during the SSG’s HBGW and Healthcare Providers Forum in Perth, Western Australia.

In Brisbane in June we acknowledged The Reject Shop’s HBGW journey culminating in it too becoming a HBGW signatory. 

Mr Keith Govias, National Health & Safety Manager, The Reject Shop (centre) with (left to right) Dr Warren Harrex (AFOEM representative on SSG), Suzanne Jones (Chair SSG), Morag Fitzsimons (Deputy Chair SSG) and Associate Professor Peter Connaughton (immediate past President AFOEM) at HBGW forum, Brisbane on 7 June 2018.

Keep an eye out for our next 2018 forum when we support the NZ SSG in November and in 2019, launch the HBGW Campaign in Northern Territory and Tasmania.   

The Workplace Engagement & Advocacy Committee is convening our first Signatory Roundtable Event to be convened in Melbourne in September, supported by a high-profile facilitator and academic input to develop our first White Paper. This event will be open only to HBGW signatories. 

HBGW social media – you will have noticed our new HBGW logo. Please keep an eye out for activities through LinkedIn. The SSG develops resources to build understanding and facilitate communication of the HBGW messaging. Here are the links to the SSG flyer, process to become a signatory, and Charter of Principles.

The SSG Workplan underpins our activities and high-level agenda. In 2018 it focuses our efforts on growing and engaging with the existing signatory base whilst developing a strong foundation to support new signatory organisations to implement their own HBGW program. Our efforts will be directed toward establishing alliances and sponsors to support the HBGW campaign, enabling our program of activities to expand and strengthen our connection with signatory organisations. We intend to seek investment to develop resources and surveys to inform SSG activities and influence industry and government sectors.

HBGW Industry Forums and Events

Contributor: Anne Cherry

With two more great Australian SSG Industry Forums and a presentation to the Self Insurers Association of Western Australia (SIAWA), the HBGW campaign has expanded its message farther than ever.

Perth Forum – HBGW in Healthcare – November 2017
The Perth Forum had a full-capacity crowd (120+), who engaged whole-heartedly on the topic of the health benefits of good work in the healthcare sector. HBGW_newsletter

If you missed the Perth Forum or want to revisit the great presentations, good news – you can watch the proceedings by clicking the links below (Note: you will be prompted to enter a password which is HBGW2018).

To see presentations from previous forums ​visit the HBGW resources webpage.

Self Insurers Association of Western Australia (SIAWA) Forum – 24 May 2018HBGW_newsletter2
At the SIAWA forum, Associate Professor Peter Connaughton, past AFOEM President, Anne Cherry, SSG Executive Committee Member and Zoe Holdaway, SSG Forum Committee Member, provided an overview of the HBGW campaign’s history and philosophy along with overview of the definition of good work.  

If your organisation would like a presentation on HBGW, please contact Anne Cherry, SSG Executive Committee. 

IMAGE: Anne Cherry, Associate Professor Peter Connaughton, Zoe Holdaway

Brisbane Forum – Furthering Good Work –  7 June 2018

The Brisbane Forum was another resounding success, with not a seat to spare (130+ again). The topic ‘Furthering Good Work’ was addressed in a series of short, snappy and engaging presentations outlining how the HBGW message applies within businesses, particularly the mining and retail sectors as well as across government policy and board settings.

Anne Cherry, HBGW SSG Exec; Morag Fitzsimons, WCD; Rob Willmett, Department of Jobs and Small Business; Dr Rob McDonald, BHP Billiton, Sarah Pazell, Dr Graeme Edwards, AFOEM; Keith Govias, The Reject Shop; Derick Borean, Altius Group.

Key take-aways, based on an excellent summary provided by Dr Warren Harrex, AFOEM, included:

  • reframing of manual handling as an opportunity for physical conditioning
  • the concept of ‘hire to retire’ with ‘net benefit’
  • the importance of psychological safety as a major factor underpinning high performance teamwork
  • retirement planning being more than just financial planning
  • the imperative for boards to focus on regaining trust and developing a social licence as an organisational purpose
  • challenges faced in retail by young workers, particularly in working in an open workplace where customers may not comply with acceptable interpersonal practices
  • the importance of simple tools such as active listening and noting feedback from both customers and employees as inexpensive ways of improving performance.

Presentations from the Brisbane Forum will be uploaded to the HBGW Resources webpage in the near future.

Dr Graeme Edwards, AFOEM, one of the original contributors to the HBGW Consensus Statement and position papers, outlined the four domains underpinning the HBGW premise. He proposes ideas for ‘Furthering Good Work’. 

 Is underpinned by:
 Balance Engaging or partnering with key stakeholders  Engaging with community  Procedural and relational fairness 
 Could be operationalised by development of:
 A template or model of human capital reporting metrics including an index of psychological safety for adaptation by Directors and Executive Leaders.
 ‘How to’ guide to developing social and emotional skills in your workforce e.g. reflective or active listening.  ‘How to’ guide to developing/enhancing your “Social Licence” to operate.  An audit tool to improve procedures and processes that enhance civility and improve efficiency of the system to resolve perceived grievances.

What do you think of these ideas? 

Let us know your thoughts, suggestions and/or interest in partnering with HBGW to develop some of these tools. Email Anne Cherry, SSG Executive Committee.

Future forums
We’re already plotting future forums, including: 

  • November 2018 – New Zealand – a great opportunity to discuss all things HGBW with our colleagues in NZ
  • first half of 2019 – Northern Territory – there’s lots of interest in HBGW in NT, particularly as it applies to Indigenous businesses and organisations
  • second half of 2019 – Tasmania – we’ll explore HBGW in southern climes.

Follow the HBGW LinkedIn page for updates on forum dates.

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