Mental health problems due to work-related stress can severely impact workers to the point where they’re unable to cope and perform their job. Fortunately, workers’ compensation is available under WorkCover Queensland to help those who suffer psychological injury as a result of workplace stress.

Feeling Stressed or Depressed at Work in Queensland?

Anyone who works in a job will at some stage experience work-related stress. A certain amount of stress is normal. However, when work stress is excessive or persistent, it can be overwhelming and damaging to mental health. This can lead to psychological injury for which a workers’ compensation claim can be made.

If this is your situation, please contact our workplace injury legal team now to discuss your legal options. It costs nothing to understand your rights.

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If you have a workers’ compensation case in Queensland, related to a workplace mental illness, Splatt Lawyers believe you deserve a “fair go”. If you are off work due to a psychological injury you likely cannot afford legal help for your case. Because of this, we will carry the financial risk of your WorkCover case with our No Win, No Fee funding, until you reach a settlement. This means you will pay no initial legal fees and no ongoing costs. You may pay nothing until you win and nothing if you lose.

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What is a Psychological Injury?

A psychological injury is a mental health condition that impairs a worker’s state of mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions) and can interfere with their ability to function and interact with others. Psychological problems due to work stress are also known as mental stress.

Common types of mental health conditions that develop because of work-related stress include:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue
  • adjustment disorder

The most common causes of work-related stress are:

What is Work-Related Stress?

Stress is one of those conditions that most people think about at some point in their lives. However, it’s important to remember that stress does not just affect our physical well-being; it affects our emotional state too. Stress can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and migraines, heart problems, gastrointestinal issues, thyroid problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic pain, substance abuse and even suicide.

Work-related stress is a term used to describe how people respond to their jobs. It includes both physical and psychological responses to working conditions. Stress happens when there are too many demands placed upon a person. These demands might involve dealing with difficult co-workers, having unrealistic expectations about performance, or being overworked.

Outcomes of Being Stressed at Work

Experiencing stress in your job for long periods can lead to psychological and physiological illnesses that affect your health. They can include:

  • Mental health issues
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Heart disease

Queensland Workplace Health and Safety

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions because of your workplace environment, see your doctor first and have your illness diagnosed and documented. Following this, you should discuss your situation with your employer. Make them aware of your case and allow them to address your concern.

Under the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) section 18, all Queensland employers have a legal duty to provide their workers with a healthy and safe workplace. You also have a legal right to privacy due to the Queensland Information Privacy Act 2009, so your employer cannot share your conversation unless you permit them. You should keep records of any emails, discussions, comments, or other interactions with your employer or colleagues regarding your situation. If your employer fails to address your safety concerns, this evidence will be required to support your case.

WorkCover Claims for Work Stress.

Having WorkCover approve your stress claim can be difficult. To have your claim accepted, it is crucial to prove your employer was negligent and failed their duty of care in your situation. If you can prove this, you could have a successful psychological injury claim through WorkCover or a common law case.

Generally, a claim for mental stress is likely to be accepted when you meet both of the following criteria:

  • Evidence that a worker is suffering from a psychological injury.
  • There is a strong connection between the psychological damage to the worker and their job.

Reasonable Management Action.

You could not make a workers compensation claim for stress, anxiety or depression if your psychological condition was acquired by reasonable management action regarding your work performance. Reasonable action has a broad definition and can include:

  • Work performance reviews
  • Suspension from work
  • Retrenchment and dismissal
  • Transfers and demotion
  • Reclassification of your work duties

In this circumstance, your employer needs to show their measures were reasonable. If your employer can prove this, you will need to show that your mental condition was caused by other work factors that endangered your health and safety.

Unreasonable management action includes harassment and bullying and not following fair procedures.

Lodging a WorkCover Stress Claim.

When you lodge a claim for workers compensation with WorkCover for your psychological injury, you need to show how your condition is related to your work. It would help if you documented all the stressors contributing to your mental illness. Your records should include specific incident dates, times and the names of any people involved.

After claim lodgement, the insurer will respond within 28 days to advise the outcome of your matter. They will either accept or deny your claim. It is usual for you to be assessed by an independent psychiatrist who will report your capacity to work and your therapy. The insurer can also assign an investigator to explore all aspects of your case. They would speak with your employer and any witnesses. You should seek legal advice if your employer asks you to talk with the investigator.

If your matter is denied, you should also seek legal advice.

Workers’ Compensation Payout for Mental Stress Claims

Payouts for mental stress claims are often substantial, chiefly because these claims involve long absences from work. The benefits included in worker’s compensation payouts depend on the circumstances of the claim. They can include:

  • medical fees to doctors, psychologists, or counsellors
  • loss of income
  • rehabilitation costs
  • job retraining costs
  • lump sum payment for any permanent injury or disability

 

Suffering from Work-Related Stress? Seek Support!

Looking after your mental and physical health is crucial to consult with your GP if you haven’t already. They can send you to a psychologist or other health professional if necessary.

Some organisations provide support and information for stress, anxiety and depression. Safe Work Australia recommends the following:

Claiming compensation for a psychological injury can be difficult as the damage isn’t visible like a physical injury. Parties involved can be adversarial because of the stigma associated with mental health, making the process more challenging and stressful. If an injured person decides to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation, it’s best to seek advice from a work injury lawyer with expertise in handling this type of legal matter.

Workers’ Compensation FAQ’s for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.

If you have annual leave or sick leave, you can take leave for stress. You may need to provide a doctor’s certificate confirming you are unwell. If you cannot work due to your work-related mental illness and require an extended period off work, you should consider lodging a claim with WorkCover.

If you have a psychological injury because of your work, you might have a claim for compensation. Your condition must be associated with your job. Your employment must be a considerable contributor to your mental illness. Your claim will not be recognised if action by your employer is considered reasonable management action.

Every year, approximately 870 employees in Queensland have successful claims for mental illness related to their employment. This number is about 3.4% of overall workers’ compensation claims for the same period.

A hostile workplace is where you regularly experience undesirable or unwelcome behaviour and bullying. It includes situations where you do not want to attend your workplace due to excessive pressure and lack of support.

Yes, they do. However, work stress on its own may not be grounds to make a claim. You are more likely to have a claim if you also suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD or adjustment disorder.

You could sue your Queensland employer if your mental health condition is due to negligence in providing a safe and healthy workplace.

For a workers compensation claim, a psychiatric condition must be a recognised mental illness like PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression, adjustment disorder or chronic fatigue.

Workplace Stress?

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