The Devil in the Data – forecasting future bullying and harassment claims

When organisations know what to look for, employee data can reveal the likelihood of future bullying and harassment claims. By assessing businesses against the Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) framework, the incidents of future psychological claims can be predicted and, most importantly, mitigated with action from the management team.

Over the past decades, there has been a steady improvement of the physical safety climates of Australian workplaces, resulting in a reduction of work injuries and claims (down 31% per hours worked from 2000 to 2013) and improved productivity. In contrast, and of particular concern to businesses and Governments, there has been a noticeable trend of increasing claims for psychological injury, often arising from accusations of workplace bullying and harassment. These claims can seem to arise out of nowhere, appear impossible for management to predict or avoid and nationally account for the largest proportion of expense in relation to compensation claims. However, recent studies have provided proof that assessing an organisations Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) rating can predict the future occurrence of psychological claims and provide guidance on methods to reduce risk and claims while increasing productivity.

In an effort to understand and reverse the trend of increasing claims and reduced productivity, Australian Governments are utilising the PSC framework to understand how psychological injury is occurring in workplaces and what can be done about it. A workplace PSC score provides a way to measure employee mental health and engagement and predict levels of workplace bullying and harassment before they occur. In practice, the PSC measures an organisations priorities and commitment in relation to protecting employee psychological health and wellbeing and, vitally, provides advanced warning of at least 4 years of risk factors for future psychological claims. Knowing your organisations PSC and taking action to improve it avoids the need to rely on lag indicators such as workers compensation claims to identify issues.

In 2016, Safe Work Australia (SWA) put the cost to Australian employers of low PSC ratings at a huge $6 billion every year. SWA estimates that a medium-sized Australian business can expect productivity gains of over $180,000 per year by improving their organisation to meet high PSC benchmarks and with PricewaterhouseCoopers estimating a Return On Investment (ROI) of 130% when investing on improving employee psychological health, adopting structured policies and processes to improve PSC should be a consideration for all modern management teams.

Research proves that, just as organisational PSC can be measured, it can also be changed. Organisational PSC can be improved via staff retraining, introducing a perceived emphasis by management on workplace psychological health, improved organisational processes and improved job design and resource allocation. For example, as PSC measures are partially based on employee perception, simple and cost effective actions to communicate the extent to which management values employees’ wellbeing can have a positive impact on productivity and reduce claims. Alternatively, organisational PSC can be ignored, leading to reduced worker engagement and increased sick days, presenteeism, staff turnover and workers compensation claims.

As specialists in insurance in the workplace, WHS and employment law, we have a detailed understanding of the factors which can lead to bullying and harassment issues and claims for psychological injury. We are able to assist organisations to assess their current and future exposure and institute timely, cost effective policies and procedures to reduce claims and improve productivity.

Post by Najeh Marhaba

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