As work pressure takes its toll on public servants, the weekly cost to taxpayers for stress and mental health issues is more than $ 100,000 per week.
The total workers’ compensation bill for public servants was $ 30 million last financial year, up from $ 25 million in 2009-2010.
WorkCover Tasmania has released statistics which show there were 181 mental health claims in the public sector last year at an average cost of $ 31,524, a total of about $ 5.5 million.
It is anticipated that stress-related claims will grow as the State Government plans to cut jobs from the public sector.
Last week, the Menzies Research Institute and the Department of Health and Human Services presented public lectures on Workers’ Compensation and Stress in the Tasmanian State Service.
Until March this year, $ 1.6 million of the $ 4.9 million workers’ compensation claims were for stress-related issues.
Workplace stress experts said that job insecurity was one of the main workplace-related risks to mental health and unions fear workplace stress is going to be an increasing problem as the workloads for public sector workers become more intense.
Senior lecturer in management from the University of Tasmania Dr Angela Martin said work groups that experienced increased threats to job security “can have an almost palpable level of anxiety”.
“The majority of people don’t cope well with uncertainty,” she said.
Honorary secretary of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Dr John Chalk said stress-related claims were particularly common in the key services of health, education and police.
Community and Public Sector Union secretary Tom Lynch said workplace stress would become an increasing problem in the next four years with sweeping Budget cuts.
“I have seen a significant increase in the past twelve months,” Mr Lynch said.
“I don’t see any relief in the future. Statistics around the public service are embarrassing.”
Liberal spokesman for police and emergency management Elise Archer said yesterday police had been asked to make cuts to the workforce for a number of years.
“We are now seeing additional cuts and we will see additional levels of stress,” she said.