Price tag of mental stress Down Under: $10 billion plus

More claims made by women, professionals, says Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia has released its first report on work-related mental stress and its associated costs based on an analysis of Australian workers’ compensation claims data from 2008-09 to 2010-11. The report includes comparisons of rates of mental stress claims across industry sectors and occupations for male and female workers, but does not distinguish between public and private sector workers.

“Typically mental stress claims result in workers being absent from the workplace for long periods of time,” said Ann Sherry, Safe Work Australia chair. “The loss of productivity and absence of workers is costing Australian businesses more than $10 billion ($10.6 billion Cdn) per year.”

The Incidence of Accepted Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Stress report shows the highest rates of mental stress claims were by workers with high levels of responsibility for the well-being and safety of others or workers at risk in dangerous situations. These jobs include train drivers and assistants, police officers, prison officers, ambulance officers and paramedics.

The following are other key findings of the report:

 Mental stress claims are the most expensive form of workers’ compensation claim. These claims result in workers often being absent from work for extended periods.
Mental stress claims are predominantly made by women.
 More professionals make claims for mental stress than any other occupation. One-third of these claims are due to work pressure.
 The hazards resulting 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. Work pressure is the main cause of mental stress claims for older workers.
Women were around three times more likely than men to make a workers’ compensation claim as a result of work-related harassment or workplace bullying.
 Work pressure was stated as the cause of the majority of claims in industries with the highest claim rates.

Safe Work Australia says it will work with regulators, industries and unions to find practical and cost effective ways to reduce the hazards to individuals who face work-related mental stress and the financial costs to organizations through workers’ compensation claims.

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