The Allianz Future Thriving Workplaces report has examined workplace mental health and workers compensation claims, finding the cost of mental health injuries is on the rise.

On average, the benefits paid for primary psychological injury claims are up to four times higher per annum than physical injury claims. A key factor contributing to this is longer recovery times for psychological injury – 75% of primary psychological claimants take time off work compared to 50% of physical injuries.

Workers compensation claims related to mental health have increased by 80% since 2017. SafeWork Australia data shows $543 million was paid in workers compensation claims for mental health conditions, illustrating the extent of the issue. 80% of the Australian employees surveyed wanted their employer to take action to address mental health in the workplace.

Julie Mitchell Chief General Manager of Workers Compensation at Allianz Australia says, “Improved mental health in employees across all industries greatly benefits employers and their businesses.”

“The challenge now is to bridge the gap between awareness of mental ill-health in the workplace and taking action…Thriving employees will lead to a positive team and business outcomes. Our actions need to be meaningful to employees and embedded throughout all organisations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on this topic. Half of the managers surveyed say they feel an increased responsibility for their employees’ mental health at work, and 47% of employers recognise there is a need for more mental health initiatives in their industry. Six in ten workers surveyed reported their employers have already taken action by implementing mental health initiatives during the pandemic.

However, over three-quarters of the employees surveyed reported factors were preventing their workplace from implementing mental health initiatives. Feeling as though mental health issues would not be taken as seriously as a physical illness was expressed by 38% of employees. However, this has improved since 2019, when 85% of employees believed their managers would not think the need for time off as genuine if they were suffering from stress or anxiety compared to a cold or flu.

The report reveals that work-related harassment and pressure are the most common sources of psychological claims. Workplace behaviours negatively impact employee’s mental health are ineffective management, workplace culture, bullying and harassment, and organisational structure.

Employees indicated that the first step to mentally healthy workplaces is opening the dialogue about mental health and wellbeing at work. Awareness days can help encourage conversations and destigmatising mental ill-health. Matthew Johnson, mental health expert for the Allianz report says, “Employers don’t need to see mental health strategies as difficult, box-ticking or costly… Leaders can simply start with empathy, conversation, a good ear and a plan to properly address the emotional needs of their people.”

Five areas for improvement are identified in the report. These include flexible work options, additional paid leave (mental health leave), more open conversation and employee check-ins, introducing workplace wellbeing programs, and mental health awareness training.

For advice and guidance regarding employee mental health contact ProcessWorx on (08) 9316 9896 or enquiries@processworx.com.au

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Written by Danielle McNamee

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