Workers compensation claims costs that relate to mental health or psychological in nature have increased by 80 per cent this year, continuing the year-on-year rise of such claims since 2017.
The Allianz Future Thriving Workplaces Report reveals that claims are rising at an average of 22 per cent year-on-year, prompting 80 per cent of the Australian employees surveyed to call on their employers to take action to address mental health in the workplace.
Benefits paid to primary psychological injury claims are, on average, up to four times higher per annum than for claims relating to physical injuries. Psychological injuries also take far longer to recover from than physical injuries, with nearly 75 per cent of primary psychological claims experiencing time off work, compared to only 50 per cent of physical injuries.
One in two managers surveyed for the research say they feel an increased responsibility for their employees’ mental health at work, while 47 per cent think there is a stronger need for mental health initiatives in their industry. The report does show some employers are being proactive, with six in 10 workers surveyed saying that their employers have already introduced mental health initiatives and 55 per cent of managers saying that they or their organisation plans to implement mental health initiatives within the next 12 months.
“As employers, we’re unequivocally concerned about our employees’ wellbeing,” Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager of Workers Compensation at Allianz Australia, said. “We know that improved mental health in employees across all industries greatly benefits employers and their businesses.
“It positively impacts individuals’ productivity, talent retention and ultimately, business performance,” Mitchell added. “Yet, the challenge now is to bridge the gap between awareness of mental ill-health in the workplace and taking action. We can’t take a scatter-gun approach. The priority is addressing each individual’s wellbeing – as thriving employees will lead to positive team and business outcomes. Our actions need to be meaningful to employees, and embedded throughout all organisations.”
Anticipating a rise in workers compensation psychological claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell stressed that it’s now even more important for Australian workplaces to implement the required changes to tackle these challenges and work to prevent them in the future.
“We believe that prioritising the well-being of employees, particularly the rising number of Australians experiencing mental health conditions, is key to building future, thriving workplaces,” Mitchell said.
The report also notes that stigma appears to be a key hurdle to overcome in addressing mental ill-health in the workplace, with 38 per cent of employees feeling that mental health issues will not be taken as seriously as physical illnesses. To tackle that stigma, Australian employees feel the first step to mentally healthy workplaces is starting with conversation around mental health, with 75 per cent agreeing there must be more dialogue and discussion around mental health and wellbeing at work.
“Employers don’t need to see mental health strategies as being difficult, box-ticking or costly to implement,” Matthew Johnstone, mental health expert and collaborator on the report, said. “Leaders can simply start with empathy, conversation, a good ear and a plan to properly address the emotional needs of their people.
“Once they have that mindset, job design, employee-employer relationships, work-life balance and collaborative workspaces are key elements that businesses can improve on to help build a mentally healthy workplace,” Johnstone added. “A company, after all, is only as good as the people who work for it. Invest in them and they will deliver returns far greater than just profit.”