Workers' compensation and work related stress, anxiety and other mental health complaints.
Many Australian's find talking about work related stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns embarrassing. Australian's generally, have a reputation for being healthy, happy, hardworking, sports loving and resilient people. Contrary to this reputation, many Australian workplaces do not provide a safe and healthy environment for workers.
A recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that 20% of suicides in Australia are work related and that between 20% and 30% of workers will suffer from a serious mental illness at some point in their career.
This is a huge social problem which is estimated to cost the Australian economy $12 billion a year. Unfortunately, many workers are unaware that compensation can be claimed in regards to most work-related mental illness.
Work related stress or mental illness. Can I make a workers' compensation claim?
The West Australian workers’ compensation scheme aims to help workers return to work after suffering from a work-related illness or injury and compensates workers for lost wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, medicines, travel and legal expenses while they are unable to work. If you have suffered from stress, anxiety, depression or other mental illness due to actions, events or exposures that occurred in the workplace you can make a claim for compensation. Safe Work Australia has highlighted the following key causes of mental stress in the workplace:
- Work pressure—mental stress arising from work responsibilities and workloads, deadlines, organisational restructure, workplace conflicts and workplace performance or promotion issues.
- Work-related harassment &/or workplace bullying—repetitive assault and/or threatened assault by a work colleague or colleagues; and repetitive verbal harassment, threats, and abuse from a work colleague or colleagues.
- Exposure to workplace or occupational violence—includes being the victim of assault by a person or persons who may or may not be work colleagues; and being a victim of or witnessing bank robberies, hold-ups and other violent events.
- Exposure to traumatic event—disorders arising from witnessing a fatal or other incident.
- Suicide or attempted suicide—includes all suicides regardless of circumstances of death and all attempted suicides.
- Other mental stress factors—includes dietary or deficiency diseases (Bulimia, Anorexia).
- Other harassment—being the victim of sexual or racial harassment by a person or persons including work colleague/s (SafeWorkAustralia).
How do I prove I am suffering from work related stress or mental illness?
To make a successful stress claim we will need to establish that you are suffering a medical condition that is classified by workers' compensation legislation as an 'illness' or 'injury'. While the legislation is relatively complex in this area, put simply, if you have attended a counselor, GP, psychologist or psychiatrist in regards to stress caused during the course of your employment, you may be able to make a claim. It is very important that you seek out advice and treatment for your work related stress as soon as possible. Australian's generally, have a tendency to 'tough it out' and not seek help, however, this could impact negatively on your treatment and rehabilitation and also the success of your compensation claim.
What if I had pre-existing mental health issues?
Everyone responds differently to stressful situations at work. We all have unique psychological traits and histories and some workers may be more susceptible to work stressors compared to others. Fortunately workers' compensation legislation provides a broad definition of the terms 'illness' and ‘injury’ and includes easily identifiable physical work accidents (e.g. a broken arm) through to a more subtle irritation, aggravation or exacerbation of pre-existing medical complaints (e.g. stress or anxiety). Put simply, if you had a pre-existing mental health issue and it was aggravated or exacerbated by a workplace action, event or exposure you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
What are the next steps?
If you or someone you know is suffering from work related stress, anxiety, depression or other mental illness, we have the legal expertise and the caring and compassionate approach such workers require. Modern work environments are becoming increasingly demanding and stress related injuries are on the rise. We ensure our clients get the treatment, respect and compensation they are entitled to.
Workers’ compensation claims involving stress, bullying or any type of mental illness should be made as soon as possible. Delay can negatively impact on your treatment outcomes and the success of your compensation claim. Please avoid these issues and call us now for assistance.