Workers Compensation and Psychosocial Health

Workers’ compensation claims related to mental health are set to double by 2030, according to the Economic Development of Australia Report 2022. In addition, the report indicated Australian workplaces are faced with the possibility that the median time off work (27 weeks) will result directly from a worker’s mental health compensation claim.

SafeWork Australia (2020) data shows our annual spend on Workers Compensation is $61.8 billion. $34 billion is related to non-physical injury with the average claim of $216,000.

To date, obligations from organisations have primarily focused on physical health and safety in the workplace. This focus has been successful as serious worker compensation claims have decreased over the last few decades. The matters being claimed can be seen, they are obvious, tactile, visible, and accepted as an integrated part of work. This acceptance of an individual’s right to a physically healthy and safe workplace has taken years of training, education, and legislation.

Now there is a new health and safety matter on the block. It must be managed, yet it is not physical, it is not tactile or usually visible. There is no strapping or plaster required and it has been seen in a somewhat negative light within the workforce. Not managing this emerging beast is already costing businesses across Australia billions and it has only just started to be formally recognised.

Corporate Australia is emerging from COVID-19 with quite a few challenges, the biggest being mental health at work. Legislation around providing a psychologically safe workplace is currently dominating a growing number of boardroom discussions. The economic impact is enormous, and organisations are still struggling to work out how best to support their staff in managing this critical health matter.

Astute business leaders duty-bound to protect worker’s psychological wellbeing under the current Work Health & Safety Act, are transforming their work environment to ensure staff are safe and healthy at work. In addition, they are taking extraordinary steps to keep employees happy and making huge commitments to attract and retain team members.

Businesses accept that issues surrounding mental health in the workplace can no longer be avoided, but the workplace environment is currently a difficult one to navigate:

  • The boundary between work and life has become increasingly blurry since hybrid and remote work took hold – 2.5 million Aussies worked from home on Census Day 2021
  • The C-suite are increasingly thinking about the complexities of managing a world post COVID-19
  • Psychosocial hazards at work are on the rise with heavy workloads, long hours, unpredictable schedules, social isolation, bullying, and harassment reported as just some of the challenges affecting employees’ health, work and company performance
  • 38% of Australian workers plan to leave their organisation in the next 12 months

Whilst the pandemic did not create these work challenges, it has worsened many of them. On top of ‘life’s’ responsibilities outside of the workplace, psychological wellbeing at work when faced with workplace stressors such as dangerous operating conditions, health comorbidities, harassment, insufficient training, unrealistic workloads or lack of support, takes on a destructive mix.

Optimum would be happy to work with you to help get your workplace and employees into the best shape possible to combat the impact of this increasingly prominent risk fact.

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