Stress is a significant problem in the Australian workplace. Nearly 30 per cent of employees always or often feel a high amount of stress in relation to their job, according to a 2016 Reventure report.
Workers compensation provides financial support to people who injure themselves while doing their job. But are these payments available for mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression?
The simple answer is ‘yes’, although claimants often have a more difficult time securing workers compensation for psychological injuries.
What caused your stress?
One of the biggest challenges of a successful workers compensation claim for stress is proving that toxic conditions in the job caused the condition. This may include:
However, employers are protected if they can show they took reasonable management action. For example, claimants may find it difficult to win a claim if their stress was due to a demotion for underperformance.
Psychological injuries must also be primarily because of the work the employee was performing, rather than personal circumstances at home, financial issues or a result of health problems.
Medical evidence and permanent impairments
Workers compensation claimants must have sufficient medical evidence to support their claim of psychological injury.
Due to the rigour with which these claims are scrutinised, an accredited specialist in mental health problems will usually assess individuals to diagnose their symptoms.
Nevertheless, lump sum payments are available to people who have permanent impairments as a result of a work-related injury or illness. A common example is post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency services workers who are exposed to harrowing events.
Claimants must meet a whole person impairment (WPI) threshold, which is set at 15 per cent for psychological injuries. The WPI system gauges how much a condition negatively affects an individual.
In other words, does the claimant function at least 15 per cent poorer than if they had never had the injury?
Making a workers compensation claim
Pursuing workers compensation claims for stress or other psychological injuries has unique challenges, which is why seeking expert legal advice from an early stage is always recommended.