Calculating the small number but big cost of mental stress claims

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 22 January, 2018 - 15:30
Industry news
National News

While mental stress claims only make up a small proportion of overall workers’ compensation claims, the median time lost and median direct cost associated with mental stress claims are significantly higher compared to those for all workers’ compensation claims, according to Safe Work Australia.

The median direct cost of mental stress workers’ compensation claims due to work pressure, for example, was $26,299 while the median direct cost of claims due to work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying was $27,153 – compared to a median direct cost of $2,598 for all accepted workers’ compensation claims.

The latest edition of Safe Work Australia’s Psychosocial health and safety and bullying in Australian workplaces national statement also found that the median direct cost of workers’ compensation claims for other mental stress factors was $20,744, while the cost of suicide or attempted suicide attempts was $19,702.

The Safe Work Australia data, which is based on data from accepted workers’ compensation claims involving mental stress, also found that there were a number of industries which had higher rates of claims involving work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying.

These included public order and safety services (48.4 claims per 100 million hours worked), residential care services, and local government administration (both 42.2), school education (32.1) and hospitals (26.4 claims per 100 million hours worked).

In addition, there were a number of occupations with a high risk of exposure to work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying, which also had higher rates of claims.

These included miscellaneous clerical and administrative workers (449.5 claims per 100 million hours worked), clerical and office support workers (245.2), miscellaneous labourers (86.8), police (77.7) and prison officers (74.5 claims per 100 million hours worked).

Overall, the frequency rate (claims per 100 million hours worked) of mental stress claims has fallen between 2002-03 and 2015-16.

While the rate for harassment and/or bullying claims has increased over that same period, it has been trending down since the peak in 2010-11.

The Bullying and Harassment in Australian Workplaces: Results from the Australian Workplace Barometer 2014-15 report also found that, in 2014-15, 9.4 per cent of Australian workers reported they had been bullied at work in the previous six months.

The report said this represents a 39 per cent increase in the prevalence of workplace bullying compared to that reported by participants in the 2009 11 iteration of the Australian Workplace Barometer, when 7 per cent reported they were bullied.

Furthermore, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Work-related Injuries Survey 2013–14 report showed that 60 per cent of employees eligible for workers’ compensation reported they experienced mental stress but did not apply for workers’ compensation.