When we think of hazards at work, our minds usually thing of physical risks: like slippery floors, dangerous chemicals, or tools that could injure us.

But there are many potential risks to our mental health, too — and all employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace for you that is psychologically healthy and safe, too.

Under Work Health and Safety Laws (which all Australian workplaces must abide by), health includes your psychological (mental) and physical well-being.

Today, we’re looking at the common ‘mental hazards’ in a salon, and what you can do to assert your legal right to a mentally safe workplace.

Examples of mental health risks may include:

  • Lack of supervisor/co-worker support
  • Disrespectful workplace culture
  • Inadequate staffing
  • Poor communication and management of change (i.e. a new owner, the salon moving to a new premises)
  • Low recognition and reward for your work
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Bullying and discrimination
  • Vicarious trauma (i.e. engaging with traumatized clients and discussing their traumatic experiences)

A lot of these may sound pretty familiar! Even if it’s common in the industry, your employer has a legal obligation to eliminate or minimise these mental health risks, as much as they reasonably can.

Some ways an employer could help manage mental health and safety risks could be:

  • Holding regular staff meeting to discuss changes in the salon
  • Giving you proper training and support if you’re uncomfortable with a certain part of your job
  • Giving you more control over your work, and a clear job description
  • Offering counselling or support to help cope with instances of trauma or vicarious trauma
  • Encourage workers to provide honest, open feedback about their job without fear of retribution
  • Acknowledge and appreciate good work when it’s done, and celebrate the wins

It’s really important to remember that these aren’t just things that are nice to have. Your employer has a legal obligation to look out for your mental health at work.

At HSA, we see a lot of hair and beauty workers who have put up with a toxic salon culture because they believe that it’s just ‘the way it is’.

But there are legal steps we can help you take at work, including mediation with your employer, making a submission to the Fair Work Ombudsman, and even lodging a complaint with your state’s WorkSafe authorities, if we need to. And you cannot be unfairly treated for taking any of these actions!

At HSA we also have resources and guides available for members, written by our legal team and safety experts, so you have the knowledge and tools available to take that first step. If you’re a member, login to access our library today!

If things don’t feel right in your salon, we urge you to speak out. Our team is super experienced in industrial laws, including WHS Acts, the Fair Work Act, and the Hair and Beauty Award, and can give you the right advice and support. Sign up today and get access to expert advice and support from our team.

Please take care of yourself. If you need immediate help, reach out to Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis support line at 13 11 14.