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Workplace mental health: What employers need to know

Sonder Safe   |   Nov 19, 2019 1:10:21 PM
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As Mental Health Week comes to a close, we hope more Australians have had the opportunity to speak their minds about mental health, including in the workplace. Everyone has the right to a physically and mentally healthy workplace, and it’s important that employers understand what they need to do to safeguard their employees’ health and wellbeing.

Work-related mental health conditions are a growing concern for many Australian workplaces.

Mental health can take a huge toll on employee wellbeing and productivity, affecting individuals as well as their colleagues, families and loved ones.

Compounding the issue is the negative impact mental stress has on Australian businesses. 

According to a study by Safe Work Australia:

  • 7,200 Australians were compensated for psychological injuries, equating to around 6% of workers’ compensation claims
  • Approximately $534 million is paid in workers’ compensation each year for workplace mental health conditions 

Work-related stress is linked to high levels of absenteeism, staff turnover, withdrawal and presenteeism and a reduction in work quality.

Speaking at a Diversity Council Australia event last year, Julia Gillard, Chair of Beyond Blue, called on business leaders to regard workplace mental health as a key business initiative. 

“Creating a mentally healthy workplace is no different to other key business improvement projects. It requires a clear strategy, unwavering leadership, adequate resourcing, an action plan and KPIs, and a culture of continuous review and improvement” - The Hon. Julia Gillard AC

Who is most at risk? 

Over a five year review, Safe Work Australia reported that the occupations with the highest rate of claims for mental health conditions were:

  • Defence force members, firefighters and police (5.3 claims per million hours)
  • Automobile, bus and rail drivers (2.8 claims per million hours)
  • Health and welfare support workers (2.8 claims per million hours)
  • Prison and security officers (1.6 claims per million hours)
  • Social and welfare professionals (1.2 claims per million hours)

The report concluded that the nature of these occupations suggests workers who receive compensation tend to be those who have high levels of interaction with other people, are often providing a public service and often doing their job in difficult and challenging circumstances.


Work mental health and duty of care

The model Work Health and Safety Act places the primary duty of care on the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU).

  • Under the model WHS Act, PCBUs have a duty to protect workers from psychological risks as well as physical risk
  • The best way to do this is by designing work, systems and workplaces to eliminate or minimise risks to psychological health;  monitoring the health of workers and workplace conditions; and consulting with workers

How Sonder can help

Sonder helps to ensure that organisations are fulfilling their duty of care, particularly when it comes to mobile and lone workers, who are among the most vulnerable to mental health stressors like loneliness and isolation and the risk of accidents, witnessing a traumatic event, assault and harassment.

All Sonder Support Centre staff are Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trained. Employees who are Sonder members can access professional 24/7 support any time a mental health condition results in a situation where they feel concerned for their safety and wellbeing. Sonder’s Support Staff can also refer people struggling with long-term mental illness to additional mental health care services.

If you would like to discuss partnering with Sonder, please contact us at: info@sondersafe.com

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