With ever-increasing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and the effects of psychological injury, HR professionals are becoming wary of claims of this kind – particularly as they have the capacity to affect companies’ bottom lines.
“Reported psychological injuries make up a small proportion of claims in Australia,” Cutts told HC Online, “but they do account for a large proportion of costs associated with workplace injury claims. The costs of psychological injury are often higher because the nature of the injury attracts higher medical, legal and rehabilitation costs. Also, psychological injuries can require more time off work than physical injuries.”
Cutts believes that HR professionals should not regard psychological injury any differently to physical injury, and that a dialogue between HR and employee is essential in the event of psychological injury.
“HR managers should talk to the employee about their injury and ask them about helpful ways to support them at work,” said Cutts. “They are the expert in how their injury is impacting them. Enter the conversation with a solutions-focused mindset, letting the employee know you are looking for ways to support them.
“In consultation with the employee, develop a plan to support the employee in their work. This could include changing certain aspects of their role, changing workplace or work area, or implementing flexible working hours.”
With psychological injury claims being potentially so costly for employers, preventative measures to avoid psychological injury among employees can make an important difference. Partly, says Cutts, this simply comes down to education.
“HR managers need to ensure senior management understand psychological injury and associated impacts. It is important that the organisational culture promotes psychosocial safety and that there is no negative stigma associated with psychosocial injury.
“HR managers should also identify any potential sources of psychological harm present in the workplace, eg fatigue, bullying, high workloads, and assess the risk of potential harm. A plan should then be developed to reduce the level of risk associated with potential sources of psychological harm.”
Recognition, clear lines of communication and flexibility are key to handling a situation where an employee’s performance is hindered by psychological injury, according to Sally Cutts, psychologist with leadership and management consultants TMS Consulting.