Half of the Australian workforce has been bullied at work

Posted 9 months ago by David McManus
One in two Australian workers reported being bullied at work ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2023. [Source: Shutterstock]
One in two Australian workers reported being bullied at work ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2023. [Source: Shutterstock]

It’s World Mental Health Day, but what does that mean for employees at the workplace?

Key points:

  • The theme for today — World Mental Health Day — is ‘mental health is a universal right’
  • One in two Australian workers reported experiencing bullying, harassment or exposure to conflict or inappropriate behaviour in an exclusive work survey
  • Manufacturing, mining, construction, health and community services had the highest rates of reported bullying


A new report from the Australian Workers’ Union, released on World Mental Health Day — October 10, 2023, has revealed that half of the Australian workforce had experienced bullying, harassment or exposure to inappropriate behaviour.

The report also found that just as many workers have faced unrealistic workloads, poor training and exposure to traumatic events.

Psychological injury is the fastest-growing workers’ compensation claim, projected to constitute one in three claims by the end of the decade, as Safe Work Australia updated its Work Health and Safety regulations in April to include mental health management. Between 2015 – ‘16 and 2020 – ‘21, compensable mental health injuries rose by 75 percent.

Workplace mental health risks were commonly associated with:

  • Work pressure and work overload
  • Shift work and rostering
  • Job insecurity
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Exposure to workplace violence or traumatic events


The results of this survey, based on feedback from 1,200 Australian workers, built on previous research that found 60 percent of respondents were concerned about mental health and stress at work, with more than 23 percent being extremely concerned.

Of the 1,200 respondents, 30 percent reported that they had sustained a mental health injury at work in the last 12 months — a fraction that is reflective of the workforce at large and is growing, as mental health claims cost $480 million per year in workers’ compensation.

In addition, the Productivity Commission estimated that psychological and psychosocial injuries have cost the Australian economy $12.2 billion and $39.9 billion per year due to loss of productivity and participation.

In the 2022 Employee Census, almost one in three respondents advised that their disability status was not recorded in their agency’s HR system — over a third of those respondents cited a fear of discrimination.

Paul Farrow, national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, said the findings were disturbing to see in writing.

“To see in black and white one in two Australian workers have experienced being bullied, harassed or exposed to conflict or inappropriate behaviour in their workplace is disturbing,” Mr Farrow said.

“We know Australians spend on average 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, that’s about 5,000 days or 13 years in total, it’s a really big part of your life, so to see the level of unhappiness reflected in this survey is shocking.


“We are seeing chronic levels of unrealistic workloads, poor training and exposure to traumatic events.”


The greatest cause of death of men under 45 is suicide and research on Victorian suicides in 2012 found that 17 percent of these suicides were work-related.

Mental stress claims have a median time off work of nearly 31 weeks, compared to just seven weeks for all ‘serious’ claims.

Studies have indicated that between 15 – 45 percent of mental health problems experienced by employed people are workplace-related.

“Last year, all States [and Territories] in Australia brought in new laws to hold employers responsible for psychological and psychosocial hazards in the workplace. This survey is a wake-up call to them to start being proactive otherwise they will feel the consequences,” Mr Farrow concluded.


If you or someone you love needs 24/7 mental health support, please visit:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

13YARN: 13 92 76

After some top tips to improve your workplace culture as a person in a position of power? Check out ‘Reducing the risk of workplace psychosocial hazards.’

How’s your World Mental Health Day going so far? What would you like to see change at your workplace? Let the team at Talking Disability know!