Mental health and well-being of workers in Defence

We have just released our 2019 WHS Inquiry report into Mental Health & Well-being of workers in Department of Defence. The CPSU inquiry found departmental systems are struggling to manage the risks to workers’ mental health and well-being, and workers’ health suffering as a result.

Defence has committed to working with us to make changes for the better. Read on to find out the results of the inquiry and what to do next to create healthier and safer workplaces.

  • Only 12.7% of staff surveyed believe the Department had sufficient resources allocated to ensure workers health and safety,
  • 75.9% do not believe the Department has Safe Systems of Work capable of effectively managing risk to their health and safety.
  • 83% had witnessed one or more incidents of inappropriate behaviour and workplace culture in the last 12 months.
  • Only 11.7 % of workers who experienced or witnessed incidents that could have an adverse impact reported it. Of the 10% that reported only 24.1% believed management’s response was adequate.

Impact on affected worker health

  • 86.1% were stressed, 71.6% had difficulties sleeping, 70.2% felt angry, 66.3% felt helpless, 68.8% felt depressed, 52.4% headaches, 41.8% feeling fearful
  • 67.1% of respondents who had experienced or witness unacceptable behaviour in the workplace had taken time off.

Your health and safety is our priority

We are with you every step of the way and 100% committed to securing improved working conditions. Here are a few things you can do that get you informed and furthers the campaign for safer workplaces.

  1. Pass on this story to work mates – everyone needs to be informed and support improving working conditions; and
  2. Complete and share the 4 minute workplace “Mental Health temperature Check”
  3. Enrol in an accredited Mental Health First Aid course. Shared Advantage’s courses normally cost $220 per person, but CPSU members only pay $85.

Summary of the CPSU report

(Full version available here)

  • Only 12.7% of staff surveyed believe the Department has sufficient resources allocated to ensure workers’ health and safety.
  • 75.9% do not believe the Department has Safe Systems of Work capable of effectively managing risk to their health and safety and 11.4% were unsure.
  • 74.5% of staff found Defence an oppressive and unhappy workplace.
  • 83% had witnessed one or more incidents of inappropriate behaviour and workplace culture in the last 12 months.
  • Only 11.7 % of workers who experienced or witnessed incidents that could have an adverse impact on worker health and safety reported it. Of the 10% that reported only 24.1% were sure that management’s response was adequate.

CPSU Recommendations

  1. Defence undertake a thorough review process of all Work Health and Safety Policies.
  2. That key concerns identified through consultation with workers, and through the CPSU survey be prioritised in the review process.
  3. Defence approach Government for additional funding to ensure adequate staffing levels in identified work areas and professional streams of high workload.
  4. Defence to cease change management across all areas until appropriate safe systems of work are in place, addressing all identified hazards relating to workload intensification.
  5. Defence should evaluate their bullying and harassment policy and procedures

What’s happening next

  • CPSU will continue working with the Department of Defence on addressing our recommendations to ensure you have a safe and healthy workplace.
  • We will be reporting to Defence a ‘temperature check’ of the mental health of the workplace at next National Defence Workplace relations Committee on 28 November. Please complete and share this 4 min survey. The results will also help the CPSU focus on sites we will running mental health and wellbeing sessions in early 2020.
  • If you would like to get more involved in work health and safety by becoming a health and safety representative - please email Defence.cpsu@cpsu.org.au with your name, worksite and your best contact details.
  • If like us, you believe your health and safety at work needs to be the priority; join the union and help make it happen!