Stress and associated psychological injuries are growing and are likely to spike due to the affects of the pandemic and employment restrictions.
In this blog, I explore the rising cost of compensation payouts and how you can best protect your interests when making a WorkCover claim for stress or mental injury.
Mental injury rates on the rise
Safe Work Australia takes the problem of workplace psychological injury and stress seriously. According to the government agency, each year:
- more than 7,000 Australians are compensated for work-related mental injury, which accounts for some 6% of workers’ compensation claims; while
- some $543 million is paid to workers in compensation for work-related mental injury.
According to Safe Work Australia, those suffering from mental injury require a longer than average time off work to recover, while their rates of compensation were also higher.
Interestingly, more than 90% of all psychological injuries were related to stress. Workers aged 40 and over were also more highly represented, accounting for some 60% of claims.
What makes this research more surprising is that compensation claims for mental injury are much harder to run than those involving physical injury. This is because mental injuries face a higher injury threshold test.
First, to obtain a lump sum no-fault “payout”, an injured worker must be assessed as having a 30% or more whole person psychiatric impairment.
This is a much higher threshold than that of physical injuries, which require a 10% or more whole person impairment (5% for spinal and upper/lower limb injuries).
Second, to be awarded damages at common law, an injured worker must initially establish that he or she has sustained a “serious injury” and, additionally, that the injury was caused by the negligence of his or her employer and/or a third party.
People who have become targets for bullying or who are working under intolerable workloads and other stresses are now more aware that they can and indeed should claim for compensation and medical support.
But having said that, it’s our experience as workplace compensation lawyers that many people tend to put up with stress and bullying for long periods before they feel compelled to complain about their treatment and then decide to lodge a claim for support.
Making a successful claim
If you are under extreme stress as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and are considering making a WorkCover claim, it is important to do it correctly, because many such claims are rejected by WorkSafe.
If you are considering making a claim, you should seek advice on how to do this and what you might then expect as a result of the process that WorkCover will then instigate.
Tips on how to make a successful claim for mental injury
- Report your concerns in writing. DO NOT go into great detail. It is sufficient to be brief. A single word or phrase is sufficient, e.g. “post-traumatic stress”, “bullying”, “harassment”, etc.
- Make a separate note of witnesses to any incident.
- Seek a medical consultation even if you are not sufficiently unwell to cease work.
- If the doctor puts you off work, complete a WorkCover claim form (available at a Post Office or from the Victorian WorkCover Authority website), and submit it to your employer WITH the WorkCover certificate of incapacity.
- DO NOT sign an investigation report without seeking advice from your union or a WorkCover lawyer.
This article was first published on 24 October 2014 and updated on 5 November 2020.