The firm received the notice on 24 August 2018, with the firm’s chief executive partner Berkeley Cox affirming in response to questioning from Lawyers Weekly that “we take the safety and wellbeing of our people very seriously.”
A WorkSafe spokeswoman confirmed that “WorkSafe has been made aware of an alleged health and safety issue and is making inquiries.”
Speaking on behalf of King & Wood Mallesons, Mr Cox said: “We have specific processes to respond to workload demands and support employee wellbeing.”
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 time frame,” it continued.
Mr Cox noted the firm is “actively looking at what else we can do to support our people working in high pressure situations.”
Lawyers Weekly understands that the firm has started internal processes to seek feedback from lawyers who have been 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 who fail to comply with the relevant legislation – the Occupational Health and Safety Act – may be prosecuted.