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Stress costs businesses more than $10bn per year

23 May, 2013

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.

In releasing the Incidence of accepted workers’ compensation claims for mental stress report Safe Work Australia Chair, Ann Sherry AO highlighted the increasing concern in workplaces about work-related mental stress.

"The personal impact of mental stress on workers is a serious and detrimental issue the worker and their families and also employers," Ms Sherry revealed.

"Typically mental stress claims result in workers being absent from the workplace for long periods of time.

"The loss of productivity and absence of workers is costing Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year."

The report shows the highest rates of mental stress claims were by workers with high levels of responsibility for the wellbeing 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.

Other key findings of the report are:

  • 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. A 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, and
  • work pressure was stated as the cause of the majority of claims in industries with the highest claim rates.

"These findings highlight why it is necessary for employers to be aware of stress-related issues and improve current work practices to decrease unnecessary stress in the workplace," Ms Sherry said.

Work health and safety regulators across Australia are also working to reduce work-related mental stress and support their employers to reduce these alarming statistics.

Safe Work Australia 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 organisations through workers’ compensation claims.

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