A recent decision of the New South Wales Compensation Commission (in the case of Prince v Seven NetworkPrince v Seven NetworkPrince v Seven Network (Operations) Limited  NSWWCC 313), in which a reality television contestant was awarded compensation for bullying and harassment, has opened the floodgates for common law claims, commentators argue. Nicole Prince, a contestant on the popular Channel Seven show, House Rules, suffered a major depressive episode, and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder following production of the 2017 series. In September of this year, the Commission found Seven Network liable to pay Nicole Prince compensation for mental injuriesSeven Network liable to pay Nicole Prince compensation for mental injuriesSeven Network liable to pay Nicole Prince compensation for mental injuries sustained as a result of her employment as a contestant. In attributing liability, the Commission found that Ms Prince was an employee under the common law test. The Commission heard that Ms Prince was required to provide exclusive service and give up her normal occupation during production and filming season. Further, Ms Prince bore none of the risks that would be involved were she engaged in her own business. These factors ‘overwhelmingly’ indicated that she was employed by Seven Network. While the case concerned a statutory claim under the Workers Compensation Act, it raised the prospect of potential common law claims from other reality TV ‘stars’ who endure mistreatment. This prospect was realised just last week as fellow reality TV contestants Tracey Jewel, from the show Married at First Sight, floated the possibility of legal action.
Makeup giant, Mecca Cosmetics, has come under fire following allegations of workplace bullying and discrimination by former employees. On an anonymously run Instagram account, under the handle ‘Estée Laundry’, former employees of the beauty retailer complained of mistreatment. The account alleged that employees were ‘subjected to racism and harassment by their own managerssubjected to racism and harassment by their own managerssubjected to racism and harassment by their own managers.’ These allegations were later confirmed by current Mecca staff, who informed local news websites of their own negative experiences working for the brand. They claimed that the culture at Mecca is far from the company’s glossy and glamourous public image. One former employee, Narita Salima, said she was initially drawn to work for Mecca because of its positive image. This image, however, changed after a few weeks at the company. Salima described how she was ‘bullied and humiliated by managers over trivial issues, at times even in front of customers.’ ‘It was traumatic,’ Salima said. ‘That whole Mecca culture, that positive workplace, it’s just so fake.’ When Salima tried to report the bullying to her manager, she claimed she was fired as a direct response. In the wake of the controversy, Mecca founder and owner Jo Horgan promised employees that the retailer would review and reform its workplace policies. In a statement to employees, Horgan expressed her sadness upon learning of the numerous allegations. She also sought to assure workers that Mecca take such claims seriously. ‘If we are not meeting these standards, we need to acknowledge this, apologise, and make the necessary changes,’ Horgan said. In addition to the statement, the company also brought in an external culture specialist to help recommend changes within the business’ model. This review resulted in a new hotline where Mecca employees are able to anonymously share their workplace experiences.
A new study has found that half of all Australian workers have experienced mental illness and of those, 43 per cent believed that conditions at their workplace caused it. Mental health organisation Superfriend released findings from the historic ‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ survey‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ survey‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ survey earlier this week. The report showed that mental health remains a major challenge for employers. It noted that the economic impact of this challenge was staggering, with ‘approximately $543 million of workers’ compensation is paid to 7200 Australians each year for work-related mental health conditions.’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Superfriend, Margo Lydon, noted that ‘poor mental health at work cost the economy $17 billion a year.’ In addition to the economic impact of poor mental health, the report contained industry and sector breakdowns. It found that Australians working in the healthcare sector reported experiencing the highest levels of stress of any industry. This figure correlated with the highest levels of reported workplace violence (16 per cent) and the second-highest levels of reported bullying (28 per cent). In response to the report, Ms Lydon said that ‘education and training on mental health and wellbeing helps to break down many barriers, particularly those related to skill gaps, recognition of the importance of mentally healthy workplaces and managerial commitment and action.’ The report also highlighted that it was not individual employees who stood to benefit from more mentally healthy workplaces, rather the ’research showed that employers who invest in mentally healthy workplaces would see a reduction in sickness and absence, along with increased productivity and higher retention.’