Injured employees afraid to speak up: Study

HR managers must better understand the factors impacting employee health, says principal psychologist Dr Chris Stevents

Injured employees afraid to speak up: Study
Fear about job security and finances are weighing heavily on the minds of many injured Australians - and it’s setting back their recovery and return to work, new research from Konekt has shown.

The Konekt Market Report, compiled in conjunction with Littleton Consulting, analysed more than 156,000 rehabilitation cases from around Australia over the past eight years.

It shows that for work-injured employees, financial and job security concerns are the second most common risk factor to rehabilitation and a return to work behind psychological factors

Dr Chris Stevens, Principal Psychologist, CommuniCorp Group, said that over the past 10-15 years, people have become more afraid to speak up when they have an injury because of job uncertainty.

Moreover, these insecurities and chronic stresses have certainly been exacerbated in recent times by things such as mortgage stress.

“It’s why taking a holistic approach to rehabilitation is even more crucial than ever. Biopsychosocial injury management takes into account physical, psychological and social factors that can impact an injured worker’s ability to function and participate in work, as well as their motivation to find a new job.”

Dr Stevens added that what’s needed is 'work-oriented treatment', which requires all stakeholders including employers, HR managers, insurers and healthcare professionals, to better understand all factors impacting employees' work.

This includes their physical and mental state, the work environment, home and wider community, with the purpose being to develop a suitable treatment plan.

“Managing psychosocial factors as well as psychological symptoms will be a significant contributor to recovery,” Dr Stevens said.

“It’s vital to manage the recovery process as effectively as possible to relieve injured people of one of their greatest concerns during the recovery phase – their ongoing livelihood.”

According to the Konekt Market Report, almost 50% of all biopsychosocial factors are psychological. In addition, the longer the delay to referral of the worker for treatment, the greater number of biopsychosocial factors impacting on recovery and return to work.

Dr Stevens said that what’s significant about this report is the data around the biopsychosocial impacts of a delay in return to work.

“Assessing and managing all these psychosocial factors will be a significant contributor to speedy recovery,” said Dr Stevens.

“Getting people back to work as quickly as possible after injury is in the best interests of the injured person, their family, employer, health professionals, and insurers. Timely, supportive and coordinated return to work rehab programs are likely to reduce pain and improve functionality and quality of life, resulting in improved health and faster recovery.”

Other findings from the Konekt Market Report 2017 included:
-    82 per cent of initial referrals were for musculoskeletal disorders and injuries such as fractures
-    12 per cent of initial referrals were for a mental health condition (unchanged over the past eight years)
-    A higher proportion of younger people (less than 50 years of age) are reporting a work-related injury
-    The highest number of referrals came from the Public Administration and Safety sector
-    The highest proportion of fractures occurred in the construction sector
-    The longest delay to referral was in manufacturing

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