Research by a leading Australian work safety organisation has revealed that depression costs Australian employers a whopping $8 billion a year through sick leave and presenteeism – some $693 million of that is due to stress and bullying.
According to Safework Australia, work related stress has begun to represent such a huge cost to employers that by 2020 stress-related illnesses such as depression and cardiovascular disease will be the leading causes of the global disease burden.
The research found that workers with mild symptoms of depression take twice as many sick days as those who do not show any symptoms of depression at all. The number of working hours continues to be a major issue, and 18% of Australians work in excess of 48 hours per week. In turn, work-family conflict continues to be one of the major contributors to poor health and wellbeing.
One of the most at-risk groups included workers aged between 25 – 34 years, with this group displaying the poorest psychological health. But Linda Scott, registered psychologist and General Manager of Safety Consultants Australia, said it’s not enough for organisations to simply deal with individual cases of bullying and harassment. “While it is very important to manage these complaints professionally and compassionately, organisations need to start addressing some of the causes,” Scott said.
Some of the other findings from this report include:
- Levels of bullying are at 6.8% – substantially higher than international rates
- Nearly 42% of males report that they have been sworn at or yelled at in the workplace
- Over 20% of workers have been humiliated in front of others and almost 20% have experienced discomfort due to sexual humour
- Some 6.9% of women experience unwanted sexual advances and 14.8% of females in this sample experience unfair treatment due to gender.
Urgent attention is needed to address harassment issues in Australian workplaces. The costs to employers can be reduced 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 behaviour.