Health Benefits of Good Work eNewsletter September 2016

Welcome to the second edition of the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) eNewsletter

As a signatory to the HBGW consensus statement we hope to keep you up-to-date on the activities around the HBGW Campaign through this newsletter. 

The HBGW campaign is based on compelling Australasian and international evidence that good work is beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing and that long term work absence, work disability and unemployment generally have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

Since our first newsletter a number of activities to promote the HBGW campaign have been undertaken including the inaugural forum of the HBGW Health Steering Group (HSG) at the end of August.

The HBGW HSG was formed to look particularly at the HBGW within the health sector and how they can be implemented. At the forum medical and allied health organisations met to discuss strategies for the education and dissemination of HBGW information to health professionals as well as supporting and providing leadership in the responsible promotion of the health benefits of good work.

We are very pleased to announce that the RACP Health Benefits of Good Work webpage is now online.

All the information on the HBGW campaign can now be found in one place. 

The latest policy documents and consensus statements are available, along with a list of current signatories. Videos, papers and presentations from member organisations of the HBGW Signatory Steering Group provide a wealth of information for occupational and environmental physicians and anyone interested in the relationship between health and work.

There are currently over 200 signatories to the consensus statement. This number continues to grow as does the breadth of signatories including employers, government departments, insurers, rehabilitation providers and unions.  Further information and updates on activities initiated by the Health Steering Group will feature in future editions of this eNewsletter. We are keen to hear about your experience with implementing the HBGW principles. If you would like to share your organisations’ HBGW journey please contact us at

Ongoing initiatives from the Australian HBGW Signatory Steering Group – A message from the Chair

The Australian HBGW Signatory Steering Group (AUS HBGW SSG) is engaging with a range of organisations about signing up to the consensus statement.

The evidence supporting the economic benefits for HBGW implementation as well as the benefits in terms of employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity continues to grow.

The union movement is a key stakeholder for the HBGW, but unions are noticeably absent from our list of signatories to the consensus statement. Part of the engagement process has seen the AUS SSG meet with key people from Unions NSW. Pleasingly, Ms Morag Fitzsimons, AUS HBGW SSG Deputy Chair and Mr Ray Collins, union representative to the HBGW Signatory Steering Group, presented to Unions NSW Injured Workers’ Forum in late 2015 and the dialogue continues. 

New structure of the AUS HBGW SSG

Four Australian SSG subcommittees have been formed (Executive Subcommittee, Advocacy Subcommittee, Workplace Engagement Subcommittee and Communications Subcommittee) and much work has been undertaken to define their statement of purpose and objectives.

The subcommittees focus more closely on their specific initiatives and activities while the Executive provides support to the subcommittee Chairs. The Executive also oversees the AUS HBGW SSG activity and liaises with the RACP regarding outcomes and support.

The Executive Subcommittee provides overall strategic direction, guidance, governance and support to the AUS HBGW SSG. It has three key focus areas.

  • Advocacy – to advocate the health benefits of good work across the Australian community. 
  • Workplace engagement – to assist employers to implement a health benefits of good work agenda.
  • Communication – to develop and promote consistent messages for AUS HBGW SSG activities.
Source: Presentation from Ms Morag Fitzsimons and Ms Christianna Johnson, HBGW Signatory Steering Group, at the HBGW Industry Forum, 24 May 2016, Melbourne.

The Advocacy Subcommittee brings the HBGW message to stakeholders and the community. The subcommittee has identified four target groups - employers, unions, injured workers and the community – for its initial focus with a goal of achieving a more cross-sectional representation on the signatory base. 

What are we doing?

  • Promoting the importance of HBGW in industry awards and recognition of excellence – not just for insurers and rehabilitation providers, but for employers who are bringing HBGW to life through channels such as Human Resources Awards.
  • Raising HBGW awareness with key stakeholders at industry events – by presenting at conferences, and liaising with industry groups to investigate potential ways to reach employers at ground level.
  • Showcasing employers who have embraced the message of HBGW across jurisdictions – we recognise that returning to good work impacts people who are injured/ill/living with disability/unemployed regardless of liability or fault. By showcasing exemplary employers, the benefits of following HBGW principles will be highlighted.

The Workplace Engagement Subcommittee remains focused on:

  • promoting and testing/trialling the AUS HBGW SSG business case with a number of employers and workplaces to develop case studies and incorporate feedback into the continually improving document
  • identifying exemplar organisations that address key elements of HBGW and share good practice through messaging channels.

Underpinning all of the AUS HBGW SSG activities is the support from the Communications Subcommittee which ensures consistent messaging across the signatory base and open communication channels with our stakeholders.

Ms Suzanne Jones

Establishment of the New Zealand HBGW Signatory Steering Group

Following an expression of interest process, the New Zealand HBGW Signatory Steering Group (NZ HBGW SSG) has been established.

The members of the group are:

  • Mr Paul MacKay, BusinessNZ, Chair
  • Dr David Beaumont FAFOEM, Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Dr Garth Bennie, New Zealand Disability Support Network
  • Dr David Bratt, Ministry of Social Development
  • Ms Adrienne Botham, AMP
  • Mr Chris Jones, WorkSafe New Zealand
  • Ms Helen Lockett, Wise Group
  • Ministry of Health (representative to be appointed)
  • Dr William Rainger, New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine
  • Ms Janice Riegen, working with the New Zealand Occupational Health Nurses Association
  • Dr Peter Robinson, Accident Compensation Corporation

The objectives of the NZ HBGW SSG are to:

  • progress the integration of the health benefits of good work policy agenda  across stakeholder groups with a focus on industry sectors and government authorities in their interaction with other relevant sectors, as set out in the RACP AFOEM HBGW consensus and position statements
  • facilitate growth of the RACP AFOEM consensus statement signatory base in New Zealand. 
  • increase the HBGW evidence base by, for example, profiling effective pilot programs and supporting advocacy for continuous improvement in public policy around work and health through ongoing structured and formalised dialogue.

New Zealand HBGW Signatory Steering Group – A message from the Chair 

I believe there is no question that employees and people generally, are happier when they feel well and are able to contribute to society, family and work. That is the heart of the Health Benefits of Good Work initiative. 

While this is recognised, recognition has not been central to the approach New Zealand has taken to managing employees who are ill or injured. My concern is the disparity that seems to exist between the ability of businesses to look after their employees when they are incapacitated compared to the state. Statistics have shown for example that an employer who is part of Accident Compensation Corporation’s Accredited Employer Programme could return an employee injured at work back to productive employment quicker than ACC was able to return an employee sustaining the same injury at home. At face value, this might be an argument about the relative efficiencies of Accredited Employers and ACC.  However, a deeper look shows that the differences have more to do with the underlying approach than efficiencies of process.  And that is what Health Benefits of Good Work is about. 

Just as importantly, there is no question that the ‘health’ part of ‘health and safety’ has been given insufficient prominence in the priorities successive governments have adopted in dealing with workplace health and safety.  Occupational health occupies minute fractions of the curriculum studied by General Practitioners, who are the primary interface between healthcare and the injured and ill. The lack of an occupational lens in assessing and delivering primary healthcare also needs attention. 

I am keen on being part of a conversation that brings together the many existing, yet often isolated strands of the workplace/occupational health conversation and develops that to a level where there is an integrated approach to encouraging business generally, the state, health providers, employers and workers to work together to help employees who are injured or ill to get back to full health and productivity as soon as possible. 
The creation of the New Zealand HBGW SSG (NZ HBGW SSG) presents us with a real opportunity to get on with doing just that.  

Mr Paul MacKay 

Involvement in the HBGW campaign brings rewards

Dr Warren Harrex is Chair of the HGBW Stakeholder Executive Group. Here he explains how he became involved, his thoughts on the future of HBGW and the role of signatories.

How did you first get involved in the HBGW?

In May 2014, Ms Suzanne Jones, NSW Advisory State Manager at Xchanging, organised a health benefits of work leadership forum in Sydney. Presentations were given by Professor Dame Carol Black FRCP, Dr David Beaumont (Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) Immediate Past-President) and Dr Robin Chase (AFOEM Past-President and Chair of the AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee).

Following that forum, Suzanne Jones approached the RACP seeking to progress the implementation of health benefits of work using the RACP consensus statement on the health benefits of work. 

David and Robin sought my advice on how to proceed given the challenges with progressing this major program. I recommended the formation of a Stakeholder Executive Group within the Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee to progress the implementation of the health benefits of work policy in Australia and New Zealand. I also recommended the formation of two working parties – the Signatories Steering Group and a Health Steering Group. These would implement and coordinate the promotion of the health benefits of work amongst organisations and the health professions respectively.

What do think the greatest achievements of the HBGW campaign and the Australian Signatory Steering Group have been to date?

A minor but highly significant change has been in the terminology with the adoption of the term ‘Health Benefits of Good Work’. There have also been other notable achievements: an update of the evidence base; production of a Charter of Principles for signatories to display (and hopefully implement) within their organisations; the revision and update of the consensus statement (which is nearly complete) and the production of a newsletter. 

The Australian Signatory Steering Group, under Suzanne Jones’ leadership, has been very successful in coordinating and driving awareness and implementation of the health benefits of work. The group consists of a group of enthusiastic, highly motivated and energetic individuals who have organised a number of very successful fora promoting the health benefits of good work. 

Where do you see the HBGW going in the next few years?

As Natalie Bekis, General Manager, Service Delivery Telstra Health said in July 2014, “The work is not complete until the culture of health benefits of work is accepted in society and is as well-known as immunisation programs and wearing of seatbelts. There is a need for an appropriate public health awareness program to inform the general public in both Australia and New Zealand about the health benefits of good work”. 

The HBGW Health Steering Group had its inaugural meeting on 25 August 2016 and I am optimistic AFOEM President Associate Professor Peter Connaughton’s leadership will foster the development of strategies to educate and implement awareness programs in the health professions and to patients. 

A major challenge is to develop a national certificate of capacity and also to promote more efficient and effective communication between health providers and employers. Another challenge is for timely and early referral to specialists when return to work does not proceed as expected.

What do you see as the role of signatories to the consensus statement?

The signatories to the consensus statement have an increasingly important role. They are the earlier adopters and as such have a responsibility to share their experience with other organisations and promote the positive outcomes of adopting the HBGW principles. 

Evidence shows that it is generally cost-effective for organisations and businesses which adopt the HBGW. Dame Carol Black, in her presentation at the HBGW event in Wellington in May 2015, gave an example of a small business in the UK which reported a third of typical private sector figures in sickness absence by promoting good work. The implementation of HBGW can reduce unplanned absence rates, reduce staff turnover costs as well as reduce the number and cost of workers compensation claims. Successes are even published in financial magazines.

A ‘people first’ culture is likely to promote a common shared vision for all workers to achieve efficient, productive and viable workplaces. Early feedback shows there is a need for effective education and training programs in the HBGW, for junior managers in particular.

There is a need to eliminate, if possible, some of the short term detrimental business policies introduced over recent years which treat people as disposable commodities who can be hired and fired as required. 

This uncertainty of employment creates unnecessary stress and does not encourage mutual trust, loyalty and a shared interest in performance and outcomes. There is a need to develop more considerate work cultures which encourage people to want to be at work because of the psychosocial benefits other than just being a source of income.

Health Benefits of Good Work Industry Forum – Opening doors – A call to action – Melbourne, 24 May 2016

Representatives from a wide range of industries and organisations came together to listen to leaders in the field, network, brainstorm ideas, and to discuss solutions to shared problems at the Australian HBGW Signatory Steering Group’s (AUS HBGW SSG) Opening Doors: A Call to Action forum in Melbourne on Tuesday, 24 May 2016.

The event, sponsored by AMP and UHG was opened by AFOEM President Associate Professor Peter Connaughton and featured presentations from occupational and environmental physicians, trade union and business representatives, academics and examples of how the HGBW has benefited employees and employers including Fire & Rescue NSW.

Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Mr Michael Borowick, provided a detailed analysis on the tenets of the Health Benefits of Good Work and the worker’s experience and highlighted areas for improvement. He discussed the union perspective of the HBGW and his presentation not only identified areas of conflict between some employers, insurers and unions, but also the many points of agreement unions have with the principles of HBGW. 

Encouragingly, there appeared many areas of consensus around what good work means across stakeholders and therefore much on areas we could agree and work collaboratively on.  
Mr Borowick said that “good health outcomes are more likely when individuals understand the health benefits of good work, and are empowered to take responsibility for their own situation”. 
AUS HBGW SSG member, Mr Ray Collins has since been invited to the ACTU's Occupational Health & Safety Committee meeting in July to continue the dialogue.

The forum also provided an opportunity for participants to explore the future of work through a human-centred design approach. Gareth Rydon, Senior Manager of Design and Innovation Operations at AMP, led participants through a facilitated workshop. Through the session a collaborative creative matrix, which identified what work will look like in the future including, where we will work, and the interfaces between policies, facilities, and people, was created. 

The matrix demonstrated that the boundaries of work will continue to evolve, and the need to drive wellbeing and personal connections in an agile environment will be critical.  

An outstanding presentation from Ms Linda Hutchen from Telstra (PDF 460KB) demonstrated the benefits of the HBGW when embraced organisation-wide. The shared personal stories highlighted the positive impact good work has on individuals’ health and wellbeing.  

These benefits of HBGW were echoed by Mr Andrew McGarity, a long standing champion of HBGW, who gave a compelling overview of his implementation of Fire & Rescue NSW evidence-based approach to early systematic intervention and rehabilitation. This program has resulted in an improvement in the average duration of claims and a significant reduction in premiums for Fire & Rescue NSW.

Dr Ruth Williams, Academic Convenor of the Hallmark Ageing Research Initiative and Research Fellow with the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, challenged those present to consider some of the demographic changes currently reflected in our workforce make up. 

As older workers take up a larger percentage of the Australian workforce, she asked us to consider what employers may need to do to assist them to remain engaged and productive into the future.

Videos of presentations from the Forum can be viewed on the RACP website.

Future Industry forums are being planned and the next one is currently being organised for November 2016. Further information on the next forum will be available soon. 

If your organisation would like to be involved or can support the forum in some way, please contact me at

Ms Suzanne Jones

Health Benefits of Work Consensus Statement Signatories’ Survey 2015 – key findings

Key findings and graphs from a survey of HBGW signatories in October 2015 are available online in a presentation from Ms Christianna Johnson (PDF 2MB), Suncorp, member of the Australian HBGW Signatory Steering Group. The presentation was titled Building the HBGW Brand and Profile through Engagement of the Signatory Base at the HBGW Industry Forum held in Sydney in November 2015 (survey results are on slides five to 13).

Get involved and spread the word

If you would like to share your organisation’s experience of the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) initiative contact AFOEM at 

We are committed to spreading the word on HBGW and growing the consensus statement signatory base so please share this newsletter with any organisations which may be interested. 

Organisations can find more information and sign up on the How to Become a Signatory page.
We look forward to hearing from you. 

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