Speaking to Accountants Daily, Kemp Law managing director Michael Kemp said that mental stress, harassment and bullying is prevalent in the accounting industry.
“I think in any profession where everyone is under pressure to succeed and be the best, that bullying and intimidation occurs quite significantly,” Mr Kemp said.
According to Mr Kemp it is the pressure on accountants to succeed and competition between colleagues that is the root of these issues.
“There's more and more pressure for people to perform because if you don't perform you're gone. People have mortgages and families so people are now taking any length to get to where they want to get and they don't care who they tread on along the way,” he said.
“I’ve seen instances in accounting firms where someone has put a person down and bullied them to such a degree that they resign because they can't deal with it, but that then allows that person to get the leg up above them.”
Mr Kemp said that it is the firm’s responsibility to proactively prevent or deal with these issues, or risk facing a WorkCover claim for psychological injury.
“You have to train your staff nowadays, you have to have in place different procedures, policies for if someone feels they're being bullied or harassed, all those sorts of things, to try to minimise it, but you can never really, really escape,” he said.
“If it's going to happen it's going to happen and then you've just got to do the best you can to deal with it, but employers must be proactive, if they see it and don't do anything about it, they will be subject to a common law WorkCover claim because they were aware of it and didn't act.”
These claims can be costly, with data from Safe Work Australia revealing that compensation claims for mental stress, harassment and bullying have typically reached over $18,000 per claim, with employees needing at least nine weeks’ time off work to recover.
Furthermore, The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance has reported that losses in productivity, due to mental stress and psychological injury, costs Australian companies approximately $10.9 billion annually.