Australian workplace liability highest in world

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Safe Work Australia has revealed that depression costs Australian employers approximately $8bn a year through sickness absence and presenteeism (attending work while sick). Of this, $693m per year is due to job strain and bullying.

The Australian Workplace Barometer (AWB) project was commissioned by Safe Work Australia to provide information on psychological risk factors, and their relationship to employee health and motivational outcomes.

The report revealed that levels of bullying in Australian workplaces were substantially higher than international rates, and workers aged 25-34 were an at-risk group, with the poorest psychological health. Workers showing mild symptoms of depression take twice as many sick days as those who do not show any symptoms of depression at all, according to the report.

Scholars predict that by 2020, stress-related illnesses such as depression and cardiovascular disease will be the leading causes of the global disease burden. Psychological injury claims already incur the largest proportion of expense in relation to compensation claims, according to Safe Work Australia.

The report said employers could reduce their costs considerably through initiatives that deal with incidents of bullying and harassment appropriately, build employee communication and by creating a positive culture that enables constructive communication and inhibits bullying behavior.

“I have seen organizations spend a great deal of time and energy in dealing with individual cases of bullying and harassment,” said registered psychologist and general manager of Safety Consultants Australia, Linda Scott. “While it is very important to manage these complaints professionally and compassionately, organisations need to start addressing some of the causes.”

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Levels of bullying are at 6.8%, which are substantially higher than international rates
  • Nearly 42% of males report that they have been sworn or yelled at in the workplace
  • More than 20% of workers are humiliated in front of others and almost 20% state they experienced discomfort due to sexual humour
  • In addition, 6.9% of women experience unwanted sexual advances and 14.8% of females in this sample experience unfair treatment due to gender

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