Public servants blaming managers for rising psychological injury [HC Online, by Chloe Taylor, 20/11/2015]

The Australian Public Service (APS) is seeing costs go up when it comes to both physical and psychological injuries, with departments continuing to seek an end to expensive compensation claims and sick leave.

According to a recent APS Commission update, the incident rate of psychological injuries is now higher in the public sector than in the private sector.

Fairfax Media reported that departments were also told in the update that they could be doing a better job of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.

Department secretaries are continuing to assess how workplace practices are affecting staff attitudes, motivation and performance.

“This aspect of workplace health and safety links the demands of an employee’s role and the sense of control they experience over how they do their work,” the APS report said.

“Where employees experience consistently unrealistic time pressures, or have little or no control over how they do their work the workplace health and safety outcome is significantly poorer.”

The update found one-third of public servants believe they always or often face unrealistic time pressures at work, while 40 per cent said they never or rarely did.

According to Fairfax, trauma from workplace bullying or violence now makes up the largest proportion of mental-stress compensation claims among public servants.

The APS update reported that a third of public servants believed they always or often felt unrealistic time pressures at work, while almost half said senior leaders affected their health and safety at work.

Just over 40% said their immediate supervisors had demonstrated a commitment to safety – but 20% strongly disagreed with this.

“Senior leaders have a profound effect on workplace safety,” the update read.

“When senior leaders actively engage their staff on how to deal with workplace problems the effect on workplace safety is clear.”

Earlier this year, the Public Service Commission told an inquiry into the reform of the Comcare system that the APS could no longer afford the costs being incurred by the abuse of the scheme.

In the update, the Public Service Commission called upon all departments to ensure staff have a means through which to raise concerns about mental health risks, and to ensure that these could be received by management.

It was also recommended that senior leaders promote mental health through the introduction of awareness programs and workshops.

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