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General practice tool kit

Your practice team

Staff safety, wellbeing and development

Last revised: 24 Oct 2019

Legal obligations

As an employer and/or practice manager, you have a legal requirement to create a workplace that is both physically and mentally safe.

Employers and employees both have responsibilities under state and territory legislation. Depending on your jurisdiction, this is referred to as:

  • occupational health and safety (OH&S), or
  • workplace health and safety (WHS).

To manage your OH&S/WHS risks, you must have:

  • a risk register that you use to:
    • identify and document potential OH&S/WHS risks in your practice, including the likelihood of the risk occurring and the severity of impact if the risk becomes a reality
    • identify and document action taken to reduce the likelihood and severity of each identified risk
  • an incident log that you use to:
    • record all OH&S/WHS incidents and near misses in your practice
    • document strategies you have taken to reduce the likelihood of the reoccurrence of such events.

Employees reporting of incidents

Encourage all employees to report injuries and near misses.

Include information about why and how to do this in:

  • employee induction
  • ongoing training
  • your practice’s policies. 

RACGP Standards

Work health and safety - C3.5 A Our practice supports the safety, health, and wellbeing of the practice team

View the standards >

Recognised as a serious workplace issue, bullying causes distress and injury to staff through repeated and unreasonable behaviour towards an individual or group. It can result in:

  • staff performance issues
  • increased staff absenteeism
  • increased incidents of staff attending work when they’re not fit to do so (sometimes called staff presenteeism)
  • high staff turnover.

One of your OH&S/WHS obligations as an employer is to have:

  • a workplace bullying and harassment policy
  • reporting and response procedures.

Studies indicate that approximately 60% of Australia's GPs and their practice teams experience some form of patient-initiated violence each year. The most prevalent form of this violence is verbal/written aggression, followed by property damage and theft, physical assault, sexual harassment and stalking.

As an employer, you have responsibilities under OH&S/WHS legislation to protect staff by identifying and controlling risks associated with all forms of occupational violence.

Key Resource

General practice – A safe place is an RACGP resource that will help your practice proactively prevent and manage the risk and incidence of patient-initiated violence. The resource includes templates for communicating with patients about unacceptable behaviour and termination of care.

If you have employees, you are legally required to have workers compensation insurance
The Fair Work Ombudsman defines workers compensation as:

“a form of insurance payment to employees if they are injured at work or become sick due to their work. Workers compensation includes payments to employees to cover their wages while they're not fit for work. medical expenses and rehabilitation.”

Each state and territory has its own workers compensation legislation. Details for each jurisdiction can be found at the Safe Work Australia website.

Return-to-work processes

As an employer, you are legally obliged to have appropriate return-to-work processes for employees who experience a work-related injury or illness that prevents them coming to work for a period of time.

Each state and territory has its own return-to-work scheme. Details for each jurisdiction can be found at the Safe Work Australia website.  

Although working in general practice can be rewarding and fulfilling, it can also be challenging and stressful.

As an employer, you should encourage clinical and non-clinical staff to schedule time for self-care. This could include taking leave when it is due, seeking professional help when stressed, and using effective strategies to relax such as meditation, exercise, and yoga.

Beyond Blue’s Health Services Program includes a practical guide for health services to develop and implement a tailored mental health and wellbeing strategy to support their staff.

Staff vaccinations

Healthcare workers have an increased risk of acquiring some vaccine-preventable diseases. Refer to the Australian Immunisation Handbook to identify recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers.

RACGP Standards

C3.5 Work health and safety

C3.5 B Our practice team is encouraged to obtain immunisations recommended by the current edition of the Australian immunisation handbook based on their duties and immunisation status.

View the standards >

Training and development

Training and development that is useful and targeted can improve staff’s performance, engagement and competency.

Many practices have a policy that clearly articulates:

  • the non-mandatory training available in the practice, and externally
  • which type of training the practice will pay for, and up to what value each year
  • a requirement for an employee to reimburse the practice for training costs if they resign within a specified period (eg a year) after completing the training. 

Clinical staff

Because clinical staff have obligations relating to their ongoing professional development, you must identify how you will ensure that clinical staff meet these obligations, and how you will support them to do so.

You could also consider facilitating in-house training for your clinical staff. 

RACGP Standards

GP3.1 A Members of our clinical team:

  • have current national registration where applicable
  • have accreditation/certification with their relevant professional association
  • actively participate in continuing professional development (CPD) relevant to their position and in accordance with their legal and professional organisation’s requirements
  • have undertaken training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), in accordance with the recommendations of their professional organisation, or at least every three years.

View the standards >

Non-clinical staff

You must also support relevant education and training of your non-clinical staff, in areas such as:

  • Medical:
    • CPR and first aid
    • medical terminology
    • medical practice reception
  • Administrative:
    • your practice’s policies and procedures (eg privacy and confidentiality, OH&S/WHS)
    • use of technology (hardware, software and other systems)
    • safe operation of specific equipment
  • Special needs:
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness
    • communicating with patients with special needs
    • cross-cultural safety

RACGP Standards

C8.1 A Our non-clinical staff complete training appropriate to their role and our patient population.
C8.1 B Our non-clinical staff complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training at least every three years.

View the standards >

Good work is good for you. How our work is designed impacts the way we feel and can influence our motivation, engagement and stress levels at work. 

Evidence shows that good work design can prevent harm to worker health, promote health and wellbeing and support participation and productivity. 

The Australian Government's Comcare has developed guidance on designing 'good work' with evidence-based Good Work Design resources that can help general practices create psychologically safe team and better manage psychosocial risks in your practice. 

This event attracts CPD points and can be self recorded

Did you know you can now log your CPD with a click of a button?

Create Quick log