Workplace mistreatment and office bullying contributes to employer losses of more than $4bn in annual absences, including in workers’ comp and disability insurance, a new study suggests.
According to researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
, bullying accounted for 5.5% of sickness absenteeism in 2010. That translates to higher workers’ comp costs in an environment already wary of additional risk.
Researchers noted that workplace bullying, which could include insults, intimidation, withholding information or gossiping, often causes anxiety, stress, depressive symptoms and even post-traumatic stress disorder in affected workers.
“Furthermore, as exposure to bullying increases, the risk of depressive symptoms also increases,” the study found. “Besides targets of workplace bullying, employees who observed workplace bullying have also reported stress and anxiety.”
All told, office bullying was associated with a 42% increase in the number of missed workdays and resulting workers’ comp claims.
Tim Davis, sales manager for the workers’ comp wholesaler Insurance Shop, said insurance carriers have not yet begun addressing bullying in education and training services.
“It wouldn’t shock me if this was to become a more common underwriting question, though, especially in workplace environments where bullying could occur,” Davis acknowledged. “I think the biggest challenge will be for agents to identify those industries in which bullying is a problem and provide insureds with education on the problem and what might be done to mitigate some of those issues.”
According to the study, women were more likely to file workers’ comp claims relating to office bullying than men. Workers in protective services community and social services, and healthcare support occupations also reported higher occurrence of mistreatment, with an average 17.8% reporting bullying.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, just 3.5% of workers in architecture and engineering; life, physical and social science; and business and finance reported missing work or filing workers’ comp claims in response to office bullying.
Davis believes that market conditions will soon supply agents with education resources to combat these trends.
“It’s too early to make substantial decisions, but with the market the way it is currently, carriers are considering every aspect of risk analysis to determine whether they want to write workers’ comp,” he said.