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Published: 30 November 2018
Author: Carla Cipressi

Making a WorkSafe claim for psychological injury

People are starting to get serious about recognising and treating psychological injury within the workplace. In this blog, I offer practical advice for those who are seeking support from WorkSafe for psychological injury.

Our experience fighting for people who have suffered from a psychological injury in the workplace is that there is little support for workers, especially if their WorkCover claim is rejected.

Employees are regularly exposed to excessive workloads, poor workplace culture, bullying and harassment, exposure to critical incidents and non-compliance with company policies that can lead to sustaining a psychological injury.

Although work procedures and the law have come a long way to identifying and removing physical hazards in the workplace, work remains to be done.

That theme was taken up recently by the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard at WorkSafe’s Health and Safety Month.

What the stats say

Addressing the conference, Ms. Gillard said: “We as a society have a long way to go to keep people mentally safe.”

She then went on to quote some telling statistics:

  • In 2017, 3128 people took their own lives in Australia, this is the highest recorded rate in Australia in the past 10 years.
  • The rate is x17 higher than fatalities at work.
  • 1 in 5 people employed in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

Ms Gillard acknowledged that workplace mental health is still a relatively new concept and one of the major barriers for workers to putting their hand up and seeking support was that workers did not want to jeopardise their standing at work or risk losing a potential promotion.

Similarly, for many people, it is difficult to know when to put in a WorkCover claim for a psychological injury.

Psychological injury claims and WorkCover

As a general position, if your mental health has caused you to take regular sick leave or you are having regular treatment, you should lodge a claim.

Unlike a physical injury at work, it is not always easy to provide evidence of the issues that have caused your psychological injury for your WorkCover claim to be accepted. The law says that the onus is on the injured worker to notify appropriate colleagues and superiors that they are at risk of sustaining a psychological injury. This can be particularly problematic if it is those colleagues and managers that are the ones piling up work on your desk or carrying out the bullying and harassment.

It can be vital to the success of your WorkCover claim that you have spoken to a doctor about your emotional problems and that you keep a diary of the time, date and details of what has occurred that has contributed to your injury.

It is also useful to document times when you have sought support and keeping a record of the responses you receive. If you claim is ultimately rejected, you should seek legal advice.

Not just all talk

Along with raising awareness and encouraging psychological safety at work, the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance established by the National Mental Health Commission is working on a national framework to help workplaces to better address mental health.

We have yet to see whether that framework will incorporate obligations for employers to protect the mental health of all employees or whether this would be considered too onerous for employers. It is at least a step in the right direction.

If you notice that your mental health is suffering due to issues at work, you should first seek support.

Additional links:

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636, www.beyondblue.org.au