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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Improving staff health and wellbeing

OBJECTIVE Supporting our people

Wellbeing strategies have led to improvements in staff health

Legal Aid NSW partnered with the University of NSW to undertake a three-year study exploring staff mental health and stress levels among lawyers and administrative staff and the effectiveness of workplace interventions in addressing healthrelated issues. Released early in 2016, Creating a Supportive Culture for Legal Services found some small but significant improvements in mental health and stress levels among Legal Aid NSW employees over the three survey periods. These improvements were strongest in the 2015 survey, and the authors predict that the results may ‘become more pronounced over the longer term and may hint at bigger improvements in the general wellbeing of staff’.

The study raised issues our staff face – such as the fact that they work in a challenging environment, under time constraints, and in high-pressure court environments. Despite this, most staff said they were satisfied with their decision to work at Legal Aid NSW, and many said the most satisfying aspect of their work was “serving disadvantaged people, representing children and making a genuine difference in terms of social justice”.

The Wellcheck debriefing program which began last year was used by more employees with some regional offices arranging for counsellor attendance. This program helps staff manage their stress levels in one-on-one sessions with psychologists who identify risk factors and help employees manage these issues. There was an increase in the number of staff and their families accessing our Employee Assistance Program. We piloted a Peer Support Circles Program in the criminal law practice. The practice expanded the employee assistance program by arranging for a psychologist to provide regular confidential counselling at various Sydney and regional offices. Staff can book consultations anonymously and are eligible for up to six visits a year.

Supporting staff to provide services to clients with mental illness

An area that causes stress for staff is dealing with clients with a mental illness, especially if staff do not have the skills to do this.

This year, we started developing a training package for staff dealing with clients living with a mental illness. The training will build awareness about mental illness and help staff to develop skills to overcome or reduce the barriers experienced by clients with mental illness.

Work health and safety risk

We established a new work health and safety risk manager role to review risk management systems and implement systems to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our staff.

Workers compensation claims were lower than in previous years

We maintained a continued downward trend in workers compensation injuries which has made a significant impact on our premium. There was an increase in our non workers compensation matters—injuries that are not work related but might require an adjustment in the workplace or a return to work plan.

Five workers compensation claims were lodged in 2015–2016. Three of these were accepted, one claim was declined and one claim remained under investigation as at 30 June 2016.

Workers compensation claims 2013–2014 to 2015–2016

Type of claims Number of claims for 2013–2014 Number of claims for 2014–2015 Number of claims for 2015–2016
Workplace 6 9 2
On duty (e.g. at court) 1 3 1
Journey 0 1 0
Recesses (authorised breaks) 4 1 2
Total claims lodged 11 14 5

The cost of new claims was $8,800, compared with $88,860 last year, a decrease of $80,060 or 90.1%. This equates to an average claim cost of $8.55 per staff member compared with $93.95 per staff member in 2014–2015.

The number of accepted claims (includes claims accepted under provisional liability), decreased from 10 in 2014–2015 to five this year.

Of the accepted claims, there was one fall/slip and one body stress (e.g. Repetitive Strain Injury) claim amounting to $5,597 or 63.6% of the total cost of claims.

One psychological injury claim was lodged, down from five last year. It was declined following investigation. The cost, including a factual investigation and medical examination $2,580 or 29.3% of the total cost of claims for 2015–2016.

The total number of reported ‘Incident Only’ notifications of injury increased from 15 to 18. Although journey claims are no longer compensable, we still continue to collect these statistics.

The cost of new claims was $8,800, compared with $88,860 last year, a decrease of $80,060 or 90.1%.

Workers compensation claims over 5 years

Claims chart - 2015–2016 50; 2014–2015 14; 2013–2014 11; 2012–2013 14; 2011–2012 5

Work-related incidents over 5 years

Work incidents chart - 2015–2016 20; 2014–2015 16; 2013–2014 17; 2012–2013 15; 2011–2012 18

icon of finger pointingNote: The decrease in claims is due to changes in legislation and our focus on health and wellbeing and support programs for staff and managers.

Work related incidents over five years

Type of Injury/IncidentNumber of Reports for 2013–2014Number of Reports for 2014–2015Number of Reports for 2015–2016
On duty (e.g.: Court)173