Companies Ignore Mental Health Issues at Their Peril: Lifebroker
May 15, 2012 Business News(PRLEAP.COM) According to Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA), businesses are failing to recognise mental health issues and to respond to the risks of mental illness in the workplace Lifebroker reports.
CSA, which calls itself Australia's "independent leader in governance and risk management," came to that conclusion after a poll of ASX Top 300 companies revealed that mental illness was not seen as an organisational risk by more than 40 percent of survey respondents. Of those companies willing to acknowledge the risk of mental illness for business, more than half indicated that they had no policies in place with which to manage the risk and more than 70% confessed that they did not provide "a dedicated and properly trained resource" capable of identifying and managing mental illness among employees.
Tim Sheehy, CSA's Chief Executive, compared the present situation to the way business approached the risk of physical injury on the job before companies accepted the need for comprehensive policies covering Occupational Health and Safety.
"In fact concern about mental health in the workplace seems to be at a similar stage as we were with OH&S in the construction industry 30 years ago when one or two fatalities were widely considered as an 'unfortunate' cost of doing business," Sheehy said.
Sheehy went on to remind business that mental illness is widespread, affecting up to 20% of Australians, and that it was inevitable, as a result, that mental illness would be present in the workplace. In fact, Sheehy said, "Research shows that Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention and treatment for employees with mental health conditions."
The insurance industry has not been blind to the risks of mental illness. Speaking to NEWS.com.au, Bernadene Gordon, Director Underwriting and Claims Policy for AMP, acknowledged that mental illness was a leading source of claims.
At the same time, she asserted that the industry had responded. "Today many people who have a history of mental illness are able to access income protection cover at standard rates," Gordon said. In addition, she noted that mental health claims accounted for 26% of the cost of group salary continuance and income protection claims.
Sheehy underscores the need for companies themselves to manage mental health risks, warning that companies that neglect these issues stand to suffer decreased productivity, increased workplace conflict and lower morale, at the same time leaving themselves open to potential liability. "They should now also address the implications of widespread mental illness in the workplace and adjust their risk management policies and OH&S practices accordingly," he said.
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