Low job control

Low job control means workers have little control or say over the work. This includes over how or when the job is done.

Low job control is more than being given work to do. It becomes a hazard when it is severe (e.g. very low job control), prolonged (e.g. long term) or frequent (e.g. happens often). 

Low job control may include:

  • having little say over break times or when to switch tasks (e.g. work is machine or computer paced)
  • needing permission for routine or low risk tasks (e.g. ordering standard monthly supplies or sending a low risk internal email)
  • strict processes that can’t be changed to fit the situation, or
  • workers level of autonomy doesn’t match their role or abilities (e.g. supervisors don’t have enough authority to do their jobs well).  

Identifying and assessing the risks of low job control

You must identify if psychosocial hazards, including low job control, are present in your workplace. 

  • Consult workers. Workers may talk about hazards in different ways. For example, they may say they feel stressed, fatigued, undermined or frustrated. They may raise concerns about work processes or decision making.
  • Use surveys and tools. Businesses with more than 20 workers may find the People at Work psychosocial  risk assessment tool useful. 
  • Observe work and behaviours. For example, work taking longer than expected, excessive paperwork or customer frustration can be caused by low job control. 
  • Review available information. For example, records of overtime, time off, injuries, incidents or workers’ compensation.
  • Have a way for workers to report and encourage reporting. Treating workers’ concerns seriously and respectfully will help encourage reporting.
  • Identify other hazards present and consider them together. Hazards can interact and combine to create new, changed or higher risks. For example, low job control may create a higher risk in workplaces with high job demands if workers cannot take breaks or change tasks to manage fatigue.
  • Consider how long, how often and how severely workers are exposed to hazards. The longer, more often and worse the low job control, the higher the risk that workers may be harmed. 

Controlling low job control

You must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:

  • Match workers level of autonomy to their role and skills (e.g. give supervisors more decision making power than junior workers).
  • Have approval processes that balance risks and efficiency (e.g. streamline decision making for low risk or routine tasks).
  • Have flexible processes that can be adapted for different situations (e.g. increase workers’ discretion when dealing with aggressive customers).
  • Give workers control over their workflow (e.g. allow workers to switch tasks or pause machine paced work to manage their fatigue).
  • Plan any regular additional hours in advance with workers (e.g. be upfront about extra hours during peak season).
  • Consult with workers on the work and any changes (e.g. discuss work challenges and solutions during team meetings).

When choosing control measures you must consider all the hazards present and how they may interact and combine. For information on other hazards see psychosocial hazards.  

Reviewing control measures 

You must review control measures to check they are working as planned. If a control measure is not increasing job control or is creating new risks, you must make changes.

For more information on meeting your WHS duties see our mental health page.