Did you know mental stress claims are the most expensive form of workers compensation claims because of the often lengthy periods of absence from work typical of these claims? Work-related mental stress has been described as the adverse reaction experienced by workers when workplace demands and responsibilities are greater than what the worker can comfortably manage or are beyond the workers’ capabilities.
Besides the burden work-related mental stress places on the health and welfare of employees, the impact on productivity of workplaces and the Australian economy is substantial.
A Medibank Private-commissioned study (Medibank Private 2008) highlighted the significance of mental stress as an economic and social issue in the workplace. The study reported that in 2007 the total cost of work-related mental stress to the Australian economy was $14.81 billion; the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism was $10.11 billion a cost that is likely to have risen since the study was conducted.
Workers’ compensation claims in Australia are coded according to the Type of Occurrence Classification System 3rd Edition Revision 1 (TOOCS3.1)
- Work pressure—mental stress disorders arising from work responsibilities and workloads, deadlines, organisational restructure, workplace interpersonal conflicts and workplace performance or promotion issues.
- Exposure to workplace or occupational violence—includes being the victim of assault by a person or persons who may or may not be work colleagues; and being a victim of or witnessing bank robberies, hold-ups and other violent events.
- Exposure to traumatic event—disorders arising from witnessing a fatal or other incident.
- Suicide or attempted suicide—includes all suicides regardless of circumstances of death and all attempted suicides.
- Other mental stress factors—includes dietary or deficiency diseases (Bulimia, Anorexia).
- Work-related harassment &/or workplace bullying—repetitive assault and/or threatened assault by a work colleague or colleagues; and repetitive verbal harassment, threats, and abuse from a work colleague or colleagues.
- Other harassment—being the victim of sexual or racial harassment by a person or persons including work colleague/s.
Also, Lifeline Australia’s National Stress Poll conducted in 2009 (Lifeline 2009) showed that work caused more stress than other factors such as finances, concerns about the future, health or relationships.
More notable findings include:
- Mental stress claims are predominantly made by women.
- Men and women are more likely to make a claim for Mental stress as they get older but after they reach 54 years the likelihood that they make a claim decreases.
- More professionals made claims for Mental stress than other any other occupation with over a third of their claims made for Work pressure
- There were more mental stress claims made for Work pressure than any other sub-category.
- The hazards that result in mental stress claims vary with worker age. Younger workers are more likely to make claims as a result of Exposure to workplace or occupational violence, whereas Work pressure is the main cause of Mental stress claims for older workers, peaking for those aged 45–49 years.
- General clerks, School teachers and Police Officers accounted for the majority of claims for Work pressure.
- Women were around three times more likely than men to make a workers compensation claim due to Work-related harassment &/or workplace bullying. Approximately one-third of all claims in this Mental stress sub-category were made by workers in the occupational categories of Advanced clerical & service workers and General clerks.
- For the industries with the highest number/rate of Mental stress claims, the majority of claims were for Work pressure. This was particularly true in the Education sector. Claims for Exposure to workplace or occupational violence were notable in the Retail trade industry, while the Transport & storage and Health & community services industries dominated claims for Exposure to a traumatic event.
So how is your workplace culture? Are your people okay? And are your managers trained with the tools to handle support workplace wellbeing? In the next four months we’ll explore what it takes to transform workplace health and wellbeing.