The banking royal commission – set up to explore misconduct in the sector – may have led an associated law firm into strife, with the firm being investigated for allegedly overworking its staff.
Law firm King & Wood Mallesons’ Melbourne office has received an improvement notice from WorkSafe Victoria, “in relation to the management of employee fatigue in high pressure situations.”
The firm received the notice on 24 August 2018.
A WorkSafe spokeswoman confirmed that “WorkSafe has been made aware of an alleged health and safety issue and is making inquiries”.
Speaking to My Business’ sister publication Lawyers Weekly, its chief executive partner, Berkeley Cox, said “we take the safety and wellbeing of our people very seriously”.
“We have specific processes to respond to workload demands and support employee wellbeing,” he said.
The processes named by Mr Cox to address these issues include the bringing in of resources from other parts of the firm, the spreading of work across centres and teams, appointing additional permanent legal staff in dispute resolution, use of work rosters and utilisation of a casual workforce.
In a statement, the firm said: “We are taking the notice seriously and we are taking the time to develop a comprehensive and meaningful response.
“We will be working with Worksafe to ensure they are satisfied that our systems are compliant, and we will formally respond to the notice within the required timeframe.”
Mr Cox noted the firm is “actively looking at what else we can do to support our people working in high pressure situations”.
It is understood that King & Wood Mallesons has started internal processes to seek feedback from lawyers specifically involved in work on the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
Under Victorian occupational health and safety legislation, employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect workers from injury by providing a working environment and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health and safety.
Whenever health and safety issues are alleged or identified, WorkSafe may issue an improvement notice that charges the employer with responsibility to rectify the breach.
Employers that fail to comply with the relevant legislation – the Occupational Health and Safety Act – may be prosecuted.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.