The importance of caring for your employees’ mental health
Reducing workers’ exposure to mental health hazards is as important for employers as reducing the risk of physical injury or illness.
The sixth annual Safe Work Australia statement on Psychosocial Health and Safety and Bullying in Australian Workplaces1 has reported a recent increase in mental stress claims driven by work-related harassment and bullying, after a decline in the previous decade. Mental stress claims have risen from 5.8% in the 2013–14 period to 8.3% in 2018–19, a rise of 26%.
Work-related psychological injuries can be caused by things like bullying and harassment, or exposure to violence. These can be exacerbated by a variety of factors, including:
- poor workplace relationships
- working remotely or in isolation
- low/high job demand, and
- role clarity, or a lack thereof.
How to care for your employees’ mental health
There are a variety of control strategies that employers can use to reduce and manage risk and promote safe work environments for their employees.
The recommendations below are based on a code of practice which was developed to help promote and maintain mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers in the Western Australian resources and construction sectors in 2019.
- Educate the workforce about what a mentally healthy workplace is and how they may contribute.
- Increase the capacity of both individuals and organisations to recognise and address mental health and wellbeing concerns.
- Provide education and training to organisational leaders on how they can influence the development and maintenance of a mentally healthy workplace.
- Develop and implement policies and procedures that appropriately address psychosocial hazards and risk factors.
- Educate organisational leaders on intervention strategies and how they are implemented.
- Educate the workforce on how to identify the early signs of distress, and what should be done once they’re identified.
Recovery and return to work
- Develop emergency response and crisis management plans that address mental health scenarios, including suicidal behaviour.
- Maintain at-work and return-to-work programs.
In May 2021, Safework NSW also released a Code of Practice in managing psychosocial hazards at work2.
Internationally in June 2021, ISO published a new standard (ISO45003:2021) that provides guidelines for managing psychosocial risks within an occupational health and safety management system. Applicable for organisations in all sectors, this standard helps organisations prevent work-related injury and ill health of their workers and other interested parties, and to promote well-being at work3.
Psychosocial hazards impact a person’s psychological response to their job and their wellbeing. As part of the RM Connect training series, facilitated by qualified organisational psychologists, we will be hosting interactive online workshops for policy holders exploring psychosocial hazards and management in the workplace. The series will include the concepts contained in the recently released codes of practices referred to above and the new international standard in how to manage psychosocial risks within the workplace.
GIO offers Workers Compensation Insurance for businesses in WA, NT, ACT and TAS. Complimentary training courses are available for GIO customers to help businesses prevent workplace injuries and reduce associated claims costs. Customers also have access to a wide range of discounted training courses provided through our partnership with National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA). For more information on the training courses, or if you have risk management queries, please get in touch.
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- Managing mental health in the workplace
Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. In NSW, GIO manages claims as agent for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer ABN 83 564 379 108, also known as icare workers insurance. The information is intended to be of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.