The Swedish Work Environment Authority has adopted a new provision on organisational and social work environment (AFS 2015:4) that will come into effect on 31 March 2016. It applies to all activities in which employees perform work on the employer’s account. The provision contains provisions and general recommendations regarding knowledge requirements for managers and supervisors, objectives, workload, scheduling of working hours and victimization.
The provision on organisational and social work environment constitute a part of the employer’s systematic work environment management. There already exists regulations regarding the organisational and social work environment, but with the new provision these regulations have been collected and clarified. The provision contains both provisions and general recommendations on the application thereof, and replaces the National Board of Safety and Health’s;
- general recommendations (AFS 1980:14) on mental and social aspects of the work environment,
- provisions (AFS 1990:18) on nursing care work in individual homes, and
- provisions (AFS 1993:17) on victimizing in working Life.
The purpose of the provision is to promote a good work environment and prevent risks of ill health due to organisational and social conditions in the work environment. Shortcomings in the organisational and social work environment causes ill health for many employees in Sweden. The number of reported occupational illnesses that is assessed to be due to such shortcomings, has increased with over 70 percent since 2010. The employers thus need to prioritise the work environment management to a greater extent than before; for the sake of the employees but also for the employer’s own sake and also for the community at larger, where all wins if the employee retains good health.
Organisational and social work environment
The provision applies to all activities in which employees perform work on the employer’s account. Those who hire a workforce are placed on an equal footing with employers. In the provision, organisational work environment is defined as conditions and prerequisites for the work that include management and governance, communication, participation and room for action, allocation of work tasks and also requirements, resources and responsibilities. Further, social work environment is defined as conditions and prerequisites that include social interaction, collaboration and social support from managers and colleagues.
It follows from regulations on systematic work environment management in the Work Environment Act and the Work Environment Authority’s provision on systematic work environment management (AFS 2001:1), that employers shall regularly investigate and asses what risks that could occur in the operations. It also follows from these regulations that employers must take measures to manage the risks. The provision on organisational and social work environment contains provisions and general recommendations on specific requirements for knowledge and objectives and also specific organisational and social factors covered by the systematic work environment management. The provision mainly contains the following points.
- The employer shall make sure that managers and supervisors have knowledge of how to prevent and deal with unhealthy workload and victimization. The employer shall make sure that there are prerequisites for putting this knowledge into practice.
- The employer shall have objectives for the organisational and social work environment. The employer shall further give employees the opportunity to take part in the work of producing these objectives, and shall make sure that the employees know about the objectives.
- The employer should have a clear strategy for the work with achieving the objectives. The objectives shall be documented in writing if there are at least ten employees in the operations. The objectives should be founded on and be consistent with the work environment policy for the operations.
- The employer shall make sure that the work tasks and authority assigned to the employees do not give rise to unhealthy workloads. This means that the resources shall be adapted to the demands in the work. With unhealthy workload means that the work more than temporarily exceeds the resources.
- The employer shall make sure that the employees know, among other things, which work tasks they shall perform and what results that shall be achieved with the work, how the work tasks shall be performed and which work tasks that shall be prioritised when time is short. The employer shall further make sure that the employees know whom they can turn to in order to receive help and support in carrying out the work.
Scheduling of working hours:
- The employer shall take necessary measures in order to counteract scheduling of working hours leading to ill health among the employees. The employer should take particular notice of opportunities for rest and recovery.
- The employer shall clarify that victimization will not be accepted in the operations.
- The employer shall take actions to counteract conditions in the work environment that could give rise to victimization.
- The clarification can preferable be done in writing in a written policy.
Managers and supervisors have a particular responsibility as regards to preventing, noticing and dealing with victimization. Examples of conditions in operations that are important to pay attention to are conflicts, workloads, allocation of work, conditions for collaboration and consequences of changes.
The employer shall make sure that there are procedures for how victimization shall be handled. The procedures shall indicate who receives information that victimization is occurring, what happens with the information, what the recipient shall do and how and where those who are subject to it can quickly find help. The employer shall make the procedures known to all employees.
The Work Environment Authority supervises that the provision of organisational and social work environment is followed. The supervision is aimed at ensuring that the employer plans and conducts the operations so that work environment requirements are met. The Work Environment Authority may decide on the orders or prohibitions needed for the regulations to be followed. Such decisions can be combined with a fine.
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