Making a psychological injury claim at work

In the past 10 years, there have been an increasing number of workers suffering from mental health issues as a result of their work life. Psychological workers compensation claims can be difficult to navigate and unfortunately, the majority of claims are rejected.

In the past 10 years, there have been an increasing number of workers suffering from mental health issues as a result of their work life. Psychological workers compensation claims can be difficult to navigate and unfortunately, the majority of claims are rejectedBetween 2018 and 2019, 55.7% of psychological injury claims were rejected by WorkCover Queensland compared to a much smaller 4.7% rejection rate for physical injuries in the same period. 

What is psychological injury in the workplace? 

A psychological injury can include a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms that interfere with an employee’s life both at work and outside of it. It can also significantly affect how they feel, think, behave and interact with colleagues and clients. There are a number of psychological injuries that may occur but the more commonly understood illnesses include depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

It’s important to note that while direct job-related stress is a common symptom that may arise as a result of high-pressure situations and job fatigue, it is not in itself classified as a disorder or a psychological injury. 

Is there a time limit for making a psychological workers compensation claim? 

It is important that you lodge an application for compensation within 6 months from the date you first consulted a medical practitioner for treatment of your psychological condition as all injury compensation claims are required to adhere to strict time limits. 

How do you prove psychological injury to have your application for compensation accepted? 

To be successful in this type of claim you will need to prove: 

  • that you have sustained a diagnosed psychological/psychiatric injury with necessary medical certificate support from a qualified medical practitioner; 
  • that your work was a significant contributing factor causing the injury; and 
  • that the injury was not caused as a consequence of reasonable management action taken by your employer in a reasonable way. 

It’s incredibly important to consider the factual circumstances giving rise to your injury, in the context of the above requirements BEFORE submitting your application for compensation with the Workers Compensation Insurer (WorkCover Queensland or relevant self-insurer) we strongly recommend seeking advice before you apply. In order to give yourself the best opportunity of having your claim accepted you should supply as much supporting documentation as possible:- 

  • Medical certification from your doctor providing a diagnosis of an injury caused by your work 
  • A diary detailing the relevant circumstances; 
  • Statements from relevant witnesses; 
  • Emails or other written support of the circumstances.  

What is covered as part of your workers compensation for a psychological claim? 

  • medical expenses – doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors;  
  • income replacement payments to a percentage of pre accident income to injured workers; 
  • costs associated with rehabilitation; 
  • costs associated with retraining for other employment or duties if you’re unable to return to your previous job in relevant circumstances; 
  • lump sum payment for any assessed permanent impairment in respect of the work-related injury. 

Why is there such a high rejection rate for psychological workers claims? 

A large portion of psychological injury claims are brought to the surface from workplace bullying and harassment. A specific subsection of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 largely operates to exclude psychiatric or psychological injuries arising from ‘reasonable management action’ from the definition of an ‘injury’ such as: 

  • action taken to transfer, demote, discipline, redeploy, retrench or dismiss the worker; 
  • a decision not to award or provide promotion, reclassification or transfer of, or leave of absence or benefit in connection with, the worker’s employment. 

Previously, employees work-related activities needed to be a ‘major significant contributing factor’ to the psychiatric or psychological injury for the purposes of the ActHowever, a recent amendment in 2019 changed this, and as a result, employment is required to be a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the claimant’s psychological injury giving employees a greater chance at a positive claim outcome. 

Beginning claim for worker’s compensation for a psychological injury can feel insurmountable when you’re already struggling to deal with everyday issues in the context of a mental health illness, but it is exactly why the team at Gouldson exist. Our lawyers are here to make compensation claims easy and as straightforward as possible so that you can get on with life and focus on seeking treatment/rehabilitation with the aim of getting well. If you think you are eligible for compensation, or want to find out if you are in the aftermath of a work incident that has affected your mental health, reach out to our team today for a free case review. 

Additional mental health support 

  • 1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255) is a confidential mental health telephone service for Queenslanders that will link you to public mental health services. 
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 
  • Beyondblue: 1300 224 636 

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