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Stress is an injury: lawyer

Employers should regard stress as a work-related injury says Clayton workplace relations and employment partner John Lunny.

Mr Lunny said stress was a genuine and significant occupational safety and health issue and appeared to be the major form of injury suffered by managers, professionals and clerical staff.

“Employers know they have a legal duty to provide workplaces that are hazard-free but few realise this extends to eliminating hazardous levels of pressure and demand,” he said.

“Employers who do not view stress in its proper context can pay a heavy price through increased absenteeism, high staff turnover, decreased productivity, increased injuries and higher levels of litigation.”

Mr Lunny said the early warning signs of stressed employees included depression, anxiety, cynicism, loss of concentration, excessive distrust, memory loss and mood changes.

“Many of these symptoms can be hard to spot but the emergence of any one of these signals should alert an employer that a problem may be developing,” he said.

“Although human resources people appreciate the working lives of most Australians have changed profoundly over the past twenty years, many senior managers have been slow to understand what this means.”

A recent Australian Capital Territory Union survey showed:

• 70 per cent of respondents were handling an increased work load

• 68 per cent were subject to organisational change or restructuring

• Almost 43 per cent had suffered job insecurity

• Almost 39 per cent reported longer working hours.

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