Psychological Trauma at Work: Can I Make a Claim in NSW?

workers compensation claim for sychological trauma

For many Australian workers, dealing with a stressful workplace is par for the course. Tension with co-workers or supervisors, deadlines, difficult clients or customers and constant doubts about job security can all make for a challenging environment. Sadly, many Australians have also experienced workplace bullying or harassment and now suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re dealing with any type of psychological trauma sustained at work, you may be able to apply for workers’ compensation in New South Wales.

To make a successful claim on these grounds, you must prove that you meet certain standards. Specifically, you must provide adequate medical verification that you suffer from a permanent psychological injury or similar condition caused by your job that interferes with your ability to function normally.

In and of itself, a prescription issued by your own doctor for time off to recover from work-related stress is not sufficient proof. Instead, you must see an authorised specialist trained to assess your condition. At your appointment, he or she will do tests to determine the extent of the emotional and/or psychological trauma you sustained. The specialist may also consider:

  • Medical reports;
  • Test results;
  • Statements from relatives, co-workers and friends, and
  • Your own statement (s).

If the specialist finds it is no less than a ’15 percent impairment of your whole person,’ you should be able to make a worker’s compensation claim for a chronic ongoing condition.

Nationally, more than 7,000 Australians receive compensation for work-related mental heath conditions each year, accounting for roughly 6 percent of total workers’ compensation claims. However, the total workers’ compensation payments made for these claims is more than $540 million.  A closer look at government data for FY 2010-11 through FY2014-15 also reveals that the typical reparations made for this type of claim totaled $24,500 in comparison to $9,000 for all other claims.

Successful claims generally provide reparation for lost wages stemming from your inability to work, medical expenses, and ancillary costs. However, the amount you will receive depends on the specific circumstances of your case.

Before you make a claim, you should be aware that it is s unlikely you will prevail if your condition stemmed from any action that can be legally classified as ‘reasonable management action.’ This includes a job transfer, demotion, dismissal or reassignment, as long as your employer can prove it was ‘reasonable.’ Under this definition, for example, mandated participation in a job assessment may also qualify as reasonable action.

Even if you aren’t eligible to make a worker’s compensation claim, you may be able to pursue other legal recourse if you suffer from psychological trauma resulting from workplace bullying. This is because the Fair Work Act includes anti-bullying provisions allowing the Fair Work Commission to make orders to stop the behaviour from continuing. However, be aware that settling a claim in the Fair Work Commission may mean that you cannot make a claim for workers’ compensation.

By far, the worst thing you can do if you have experienced emotional distress or are experiencing significant psychological trauma stemming from work, is to remain silent. After you’ve seen a qualified mental health professional, it is important to get the proper legal advice. To learn more about how we can help you make a worker’s compensation claim or pursue other legal remedies, contact us today.