Psychological injuries and workers compensation

Psychological injuries and workers compensation

We all have a bad day at work now and then, whether it’s dealing with a complaint from a customer, a falling out with a co-worker, or you feel under a lot of pressure to meet a deadline. When it’s a one-off incident most people just call it a bad day and get on with their job. But when those bad days get more and more consistent and you start dreading going to work to the point where it causes stress, anxiety, sleepless nights and starts impacting on your family and other relationships it might be something more than just a bad day.

I have personally seen a significant increase in enquiries relating to workplace psychological injuries since the covid lockdown. Employees were put under pressure to work in sometimes very different circumstances to what they were otherwise used to and often had to deal with increasing customer frustrations during the lockdown periods.

The NSW workers compensation scheme allows claims to be lodged for any injury sustained at work, including a psychological injury, provided that the employment was the main contributing factor to the injury. There is an exclusion for psychological injuries wholly or predominately caused by reasonable actions by employers including in relation to performance management and whether or not an employers actions are reasonable is determined on a case by case basis.

There are specific requirements that need to be met before a claim for a psychological injury can be lodged. A certificate of capacity confirming the injury sustained, recommended treatment and capacity for work will need to be obtained from a doctor. The certificate must state the condition sustained in accepted medical terminology rather than just referring to “workplace stress”. The certificate needs to be provided to the employer and their workers compensation insurer to make a claim.

Once an insurer has received initial notification of an injury, provisional payments should commence within 7 days unless there is a reasonable excuse not to do so or liability for the claim is denied. The most common reasonable excuse in my experience is a lack of medical evidence. Insurers will often start payments for treatment expenses however while investigating a claim because there is a recognised benefit in workers receiving treatment for psychological conditions as soon as possible. Disputed claims often end up in protracted litigation which is not ideal for the injured worker who needs treatment, or the employer that needs their employee back at work, so getting the correct information to the insurer at an early stage is important.

Most injured workers in NSW are able to access legal advice regarding workers compensation claims and entitlements at no cost provided that they are an eligible worker and seek advice from an Approved Legal Service Provider such as myself. A list of the approved providers can be found on the Independent Review Office website https://iro.nsw.gov.au/injured-persons/find-a-lawyer  . KC Hilton, WNB Legal.