Cry for help – Employers must use COVID-19 as catalyst to change mental health perception

It is Mental Health Day on Saturday, October 10.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic, we have all faced a very challenging time for our mental health and for Accom and tourism industry employees it has also been has one of the most uncertain work periods in the history of the sector. The impact on mental health is immense and many of us will need access to ongoing help and support but is the industry ready to meet the mental health needs of its employees?

This challenge is recognised by industry insurers Allianz Australia and the non-profit Banksia Project.

New research by Allianz suggests that many tourism related business operators may not be aware of the toll this crisis is taking on its employees. The research finds that workers in the sector are more likely than most to believe their employers have little understanding of how mental health issues impact on work and quality of life.

Given the cost of workplace mental health injuries increased by 80 percent in last three years it follows that the COVID-19 outbreak will further impede workers’ mental health wellbeing and productivity. Allianz suggests that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment and furthermore 4 in 5 Australian employees are demanding that workplaces double down on mental health initiatives

The findings are part of the new Allianz Future Thriving Workplaces report, which also reveals the long-term impact mental health conditions can have on individuals’ holistic wellbeing.

The report wants industry employers to use COVID-19 as a catalyst for change on how they view and support mental health. However, some employers have already took action with six in ten Australian workers surveyed saying their employers had already introduced mental health initiatives, and 55 per cent of managers state they or their organisation plans to implement mental health initiatives within the next 12 months.

Commenting on the findings, Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager of Workers Compensation at Allianz Australia said: “As employers, we’re unequivocally concerned about our employees’ wellbeing. We know that improved mental health in employees across all industries greatly benefits employers and their businesses.

“It positively impacts individuals’ productivity, talent retention and ultimately, business performance. Yet, the challenge now is to bridge the gap between awareness of mental ill-health in the workplace, and taking action. We can’t take a scatter-gun approach. The priority is addressing each individual’s wellbeing – as thriving employees will lead to positive team and business outcomes. Our actions need to be meaningful to employees, and embedded throughout all organisations.

“Allianz is committed to empowering employers with the right knowledge, resources and initiatives to better support employees facing mental health issues. Especially as we sadly anticipate seeing a rise in workers compensation psychological claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting it’s even more important for Australian workplaces to implement the required changes to tackle these challenges now, and work to prevent them in the future. We believe that prioritising the wellbeing of employees, particularly the rising number of Australians experiencing mental health conditions, is key to building future, thriving workplaces,” she concluded.

SafeWork Australia data shows $543 million was paid in workers compensation for work-related mental health conditions, highlighting the scale of the issue and reinforcing the importance of employers proactively addressing employees’ mental health.

For more data, insights, tips and resources to creating future, thriving workplaces, and to download the full report, visit the Allianz Workers Compensation Mental Health Hub.

Also, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday, 10 October, the mental health not-for-profit, The Banksia Project is hosting a free live webinar to support hospitality, the hardest hit sector in Australia during COVID-19.

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