The following guide outlines some key issues that are experienced by people in temporary work, and some suggested actions that you as an employer can take to support these individuals in their roles.
To read more about supporting workers in short-term, casual, insecure or irregular roles, see these examples of actions you can take:
Staying connected to the team
- It can be hard for people in temporary work to build relationships with teams (e.g. create a sense of work family). Where all workers in a team are short-term or temporary, it can be hard to create a sense of team connectedness (for example, in construction).
- This can lead to workers not feeling safe and comfortable to discuss mental health issues at work or asking where they can seek help.
- Less connection with work colleagues also means that people in temporary work can feel less valued than full-time team members, as they aren’t able to ‘celebrate the wins’ as a group.
- Intentionally find ways to encourage people in temporary workers to collaborate in teams where appropriate, so they can get to know their colleagues.
- Encouraging workplace socialising can also help foster relationships. with others in the organisation or team. This could include creating space for ‘water cooler chats’, peer mentoring opportunities, and social events.
- Create a ‘buddy system’ with other full- or part-time colleagues, to ensure people in temporary work can ask questions informally.
Connection to leadership
- Many people in short-term or casual work are less likely to report mental health challenges or hazards in the workplace to their leaders because they may worry that this might impact their ability to get work hours or continue to be employed.
- Show workers that you have an open and positive attitude towards worker mental health.
- Leaders should proactively consult people in temporary work about mental health concerns and hazards at work (which may be different to their full-time or part-time colleagues doing the same role) and provide clear management processes, systems and accountabilities for these issues.
- Recognise workers who are taking proactive care of their mental health and wellbeing to create a safe and inclusive environment where individuals are comfortable to speak about their wellbeing.
Specific examples of actions you could take include:
- Keeping in regular contact by checking in with workers who are taking mental health leave.
- Where possible, enable temporary flexible working arrangements or partial leave for workers when they need help with their mental health.
- Where there is a contracting arrangement in place, check in with the leadership of the contracting organisation to find out what services are available to support their workers’ wellbeing. Work closely with the agency on their mental health and wellbeing strategy to align and agree on the support that is offered. This could be part of a standard Occupational Health and Safety assessment.
- Address any psychosocial hazards that are identified, with the same level of commitment and focus as other hazards in your workplace.
- Discuss return-to-work options with personalised plans for workers who are taking time away. For instance, after a short period of leave, a quick check-in may be all that is required, or a formal return-to-work plan could be more appropriate after a serious or long-term mental health illness.
- Offer access to professional services, or other worker resources and supports, where appropriate.
- Consider the diversity of your workers – for instance women, young people, migrant individuals, LGBTIQ+ individuals, or people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background – and take into account any additional barriers or needs they may have.
- Consider the impact that discrimination in the workplace could have on the psychological safety of your workers, and their ability to feel comfortable to speak up.
- People in temporary work can feel ‘forgotten’ in team or organisational communications. As these workers are not always at work every day, they may miss key organisation updates, including those specific to mental health and wellbeing.
- People in temporary work are also more likely to miss out when programs / initiatives are introduced and/or restricted in access (e.g. uptake is on a first-come-first-serve basis with a cap on how many individuals can engage). This can also apply to opportunities for promotions or permanent work.
- Privacy and confidentiality are just as important for temporary workers as they are for permanent workers. Ensure that you have clarity on what is shared (or not), with whom and under what circumstances.
- Make sure all communication includes people in temporary work – even if this is provided in writing following a team briefing or ‘town hall’ event.
- When designing and implementing mental health policies and practices, involve those in short-term, casual or temporary work in the process.
- Communicating what resources you have available to new or returning workers in casual, temporary, or short-term roles can build awareness around the options that your organisation provides. Where initiatives are introduced but restricted in uptake, reserve a proportion of places for temporary workers.
- If your organisation provides mental health, wellbeing, or work-life balance support to people in temporary work beyond their legal entitlements (e.g. the organisation chooses to offer benefits such as additional paid sick leave, hybrid working arrangements, flexible hours), communicate this to all workers and encourage them to leverage these appropriately.
- Ensure that your wellbeing and mental health policies include how you will protect workers’ privacy and how you will keep confidential information secure.
- Consider formal or informal ways to check-in with your temporary workforce about issues that may be affecting them, such as pulse surveys, to ask them what is working well for them or what they need.
Availability of learning and development
- Many of the same challenges that affect full-time staff also affect people in temporary work but they may not have the same working conditions or entitlements - like working from home or access to training - or financial ability to address those concerns.
- Some temporary employment contracts can stop workers from accessing training resources or participating in professional development
Ensure that the organisation actively considers risks to the mental health of their workers in temporary roles to assist in early prevention and intervention:
- Review the design of temporary jobs in your workplace: having high stress tasks to complete in a short period of time, having little or no control over the way the work is undertaken, exposure to trauma, and whether the worker may be experiencing financial strain because of the conditions of their job.
- Involve your workers in temporary roles in shaping workplace policies, practices and procedures. Promote workplace safety through work culture policies, like anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies, and leader training. Consult and engage all workers in hazard identification and mitigating risks.
- Encourage staff to seek early help through wellbeing check-ins, leadership supports, or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Where possible, embed training sessions that are specific to workers in temporary roles (e.g. online seminars that can be accessed at any time), and provide equitable access to professional development opportunities.
Granting equal opportunities and benefits
- Be aware of the different ways that short-term and casual roles may be impacted by mental health concerns, and the different resources that may or may not be available to those workers. In some cases, it is simply making workers in temporary work aware that these resources and supports exist.
- For people in temporary work, this could mean working arrangements that are in conflict with family responsibilities, for instance not being able to take paid leave to take care of family concerns, or financial strain due to not having continual and regular work.
- Be aware learning and development opportunities or other benefits that are provided by your workplace for workers in temporary or casual roles.
- Irregular work with limited certainty can place added pressure on workers, forcing them to make short-term decisions, and limit long-term planning and experience additional stress.
- Acknowledge the different ways that casual or short-term work affects mental health in the context of individual roles and responsibilities in your workplace.
- Be aware of the different experiences between your permanent and temporary staff and address this when creating and implementing a mentally healthy workplace plan, policies or processes. For instance:
- For workers in casual roles who are experiencing mental ill-health, this can be associated more with presenteeism (where workers are on the job but not performing at full capacity) than absenteeism, because they do not have access to paid leave, and may not be able to afford unpaid leave.
- For workers in short-term roles, for instance some trade workers, jobs that are associated with high demands and low control over design of the job and the way it is undertaken, have the greatest risk of mental ill health.
- Consider the learning and development needs and opportunities of workers in temporary roles and provide them with fair opportunities to progress their careers.
- Ask the workers in temporary roles in your organisation what resources and supports would work best for them. Try to do this frequently, to keep up with changes in their circumstances or the organisation.