Mental stress and harassment/bullying claims on the rise

Workers’ compensation claims related to mental stress and harassment and/or bullying have both risen in recent years, according to a recent Safe Work Australia analysis.

It found the frequency rate (claims per 100 million hours worked) of mental stress claims declined from 2002–03 to 2015–16, before rising again in recent years.

The rate for harassment and/or bullying claims (a subset of mental stress) has increased over the same period reaching 17.5 in 2018–19, according to the preliminary data analysis.

Safe Work Australia said the data provides one indicator of the psychosocial health and safety status of Australian workplaces over time and should be interpreted with caution.

Factors such as changes to jurisdictional legislation, and an increased willingness to report and claim for work-related mental stress, will also have influenced the number of claims over the reporting period.

The analysis also found the frequency rates of workers’ compensation claims for harassment and/or bullying and exposure to workplace or occupational violence made by female employees were more than twice the rates of these claims made by males over the three years 2016–17 to 2018–19 combined.

Similarly, the rate for claims made by females relating to work pressure was almost twice that of similar claims made by males.

Occupations with a higher risk of exposure to work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying include miscellaneous clerical and administrative workers; defence force members, firefighters and police; as well as miscellaneous labourers.

Industry groups with the highest rates of claims for work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying include public order and safety services; residential care services; and civic, professional and other interest group services.

The 6th annual Psychosocial health and safety and bullying in Australian workplaces statement is now available for download from the Safe Work Australia website and identifies data trends in accepted workers’ compensation claims arising from mental stress, and specifically those arising from workplace bullying and harassment.

Source: AIHS, June 2021