“Workers have the right to a high level of protection of their health and safety at work; workers have the right to a working environment adapted to their professional needs and which enables them to prolong their participation in the labour market; workers have the right to have their personal data protected in the employment context.” – EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 31
Due to the mass changes in the world of work, the need to monitor and improve working conditions have become more critical. The impact of globalisation, technological developments, and new approaches to work organisation over recent decades should be handled more professionally and critically. The 2030 work agenda of ILO on Sustainable Development reflects concern over a lack of work opportunities and decent work. It also recognises the link between full employment, decent working conditions, and eradicating poverty.
The work agenda also mentioned that the relationship between work and health is far greater in today’s workplace condition. It goes both ways with one affecting the other. The effects can be immediate or deferred and can be positive or negative. For instance, when work-related stress leads to later health issues which require the employee to take medical treatment continuously such as paralysis, it is called a deferred effect as the employee does not feel an immediate effect from his work-related stress. Whether it is deferred or other effects, these kinds of bad workplace condition can impact employees overall life which if not treated well, it will lead to a more severe impact.
Likewise, to improve the relationship between health and work, especially in the ASEAN community, the ASEAN Labour Ministers have signed a statement on improving occupational safety and health for sustainable economic growth in 2017. The statement is a testament of commitment to promoting decent work, particularly through enhancement of occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, performance, and capabilities. The agreement is expected to be a key to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
“With the aim of improving the working conditions of its people, ASEAN leaders decided that the way forward was to establish a specialised and dedicated arrangement to promote cooperation in OSH in ASEAN.” – Sustainable Agenda, ASEAN community
However, ASEAN’s strong commitment alone is not enough. There should be another protection comes from an internal organisation to ensure workplace changes. Therefore, not only leaders of the ASEAN community but organisations at large should also come into action in creating sustainable and decent working. By following and/or creating a decent environment for workers, companies have contributed a lot to the workplace. Policies and other aspects such as empowerment, training, and health benefits should be other concerns in starting decent working. Other than that, companies should also have consciousness towards their employees, global economy, and global employment challenges.
Understanding the basic workplace standards should never be negotiated with profit. Especially for SMEs, they should be working harder towards decent work because it is reported that SMEs are usually the most vulnerable and have the least resources to manage safety and health issues.
“We must send a clear and unequivocal message to all companies that basic workplace standards must never be compromised in the pursuit of profit,” said Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Prime Minister.
Workers all over the globe deserve a safe workplace and should be protected from sickness and injury arising from their employment.