Mental disorder workers’ compensation claims higher for women

Tuesday, 29 March, 2016 - 11:00
Industry news

The workers’ compensation claim rate for mental disorders is 2.3 times higher among female employees than their male counterparts, according to Safe Work Australia.

This is largely because women are more likely to be employed in occupations that show above average mental disorder claim rates, such as carers and aides or education professionals, according to Safe Work Australia’s director of data and analysis Thomas Mettenmeyer.

Although the overall percentage of mental disorder claims is relatively low at 6 per cent of total workers’ compensation claims, these claims are associated with a relatively longer average time off from work, involving higher compensation payments.

“The statistics indicate there is a need for occupation-specific support measures,” said Mettenmeyer.

“The types of occupations of workers receiving compensation for a work-related mental disorder tend to be those who work in occupations which involve high levels of interaction with other people, often rendering a service to the public and often doing their job in difficult and challenging circumstances.”

Occupations with above average claim rates for mental disorders include school teachers, health and welfare support workers, personal carers and assistants, nursing professionals, defence force members, firefighters and police.

Employers of workers in roles that require significant interaction with people should consider incorporating employee support programs and good design principles, according to Safe Work Australia.

While female employees have a higher rate of workers’ compensation claims for mental disorders, women are less likely than men to experience a fatal or serious injury at work.

“Women are overall less likely to suffer a fatal injury in the workplace, and less likely to experience a serious injury,” Mettenmeyer said.

“This is mainly due to the low percentage of female workers in occupations that have high rates of serious or fatal injury, such as labourers or road and rail drivers.

“There are significant differences in the occupation types of female and male employees and these differences have the biggest impact on the types of injuries and diseases experienced,” Mettenmeyer said.

In the 13 years to 2012–13, the rate of serious workers’ compensation claims fell by 21 per cent among female employees and 35 per cent for male employees, according to Safe Work Australia data.

Meanwhile, there was a similar drop in the rate of fatal injuries in the 12 years to 2014 with a reduction in deaths by 30 per cent among female workers and 40 per cent among male workers.