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Coroner Blames Stress At Work For Suicide

Friday, May 10, 2002

Coroner Blames Stress At Work For Illness Resulting In Suicide

A Christchurch Coroner has found stress at work to have precipitated a depressive illness that resulted in the death of an ANZ bank worker.

"This finding will have significant repercussions on the punitive performance management systems in financial institutions," said Don Farr, Finsec General Secretary.

"Finsec has, for many years now, been aware of the health risks of performance management. Although it vindicates our concerns this finding brings us no joy. Banks need to recognise their responsibilities to be humane employers," Mr Farr concluded. "This was a shocking tragedy just waiting to happen."

"Coroner Richard McElrea has told the ANZ Bank that 'requirements of financial performance as they affect employees should accommodate individual circumstances.'

"He found the bank's failure to adjust targets unreasonable, after it had given employee, Mike Smith, considerable sick leave to deal with a depressive illlness."

Don Farr explained that after a 20 year career with the ANZ Mike Smith was one of 70 people promoted to a new managerial position. Yet he, along with more than two thirds of his colleagues, was unable to meet the targets the bank imposed. He began to suffer from a depressive illness. The bank refused Finec's request to adjust his targets.

"The Coroner also advised the bank to cease its practice of 'publishing performances of employees to other employees' and advised the Bank to 'explore 'in house' the ways it might handle a like case differently," Don Farr said.


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