Workers Compensation For Mental Health: 5 Things To Know

Workers Compensation For Mental Health: 5 Things To Know

There are several reasons for work-related stress, including excessive work load and pressure. Additionally, a work and skill mismatch, poor working conditions, and lack of employer or colleague support exacerbate the situation. (1)    

When stress becomes persistent and unresolved, it can lead to mental health issues and severely impact physical health. The good thing is that some workers compensation law provisions cover mental health issues, particularly ones stemming from an injury. Legislation differs from one territory to another, so it may be best to hire workers compensation lawyers to assist you with your claim.

Some occupations may be at higher risk of stress and mental health issues, but all workers are vulnerable. Here's what you need to know about workers compensation for mental health.

  1. Mental Health is a Serious Global Issue

Mental health is the third costliest health condition to manage, placing after cancer and heart disease. This year, the Morrison Government invested AUD$121.4 billion in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. (2)

While work stress is universal, Western countries may have higher detection rates for employees who develop mental conditions. That being said, work-related psychological injury comprises a third of the total disability claims in high-income countries, and this figure is rising by about 10% yearly. (3)

According to Safe Work Australia, 120,355 serious workers’ compensation claims were filed from 2019 to 2020. Of the figure, 31% were for diseases and illnesses, with mental health conditions most common. (4)

  1. Psychological or Psychiatric Injury Defined

An injury of this nature may be defined as a disorder that impacts a sufferer's psychological and behavioural condition. Prolonged and unresolved occupational stress and injuries can lead to psychological injuries, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions often develop for specific periods, while some, such as PTSD, can result from a single traumatic event. (4) (5)

While it can develop over time, some workers who get seriously ill or injured at work may develop mental health issues following permanent disability. It's estimated that 50% of injured workers go through depression during the first month and even long after the incident. Moreover, the employee's family members are three times more likely to be hospitalised shortly after the accident. (2)

2-May-04-2022-11-03-21-69-PM

  1. Not All Mental Health Issues Qualify for Compensation

Not all mental health issues are covered under workers compensation. Hence, apart from a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, claimants would need to consult with a workers compensation lawyer like Law Partners. This will help them know their entitlements and chances of being compensated under the law. Although local laws may differ, the most common requirement for compensation or coverage is causality. This means proving that the worker's condition is directly linked to their employment.

Some countries, including Australia, maintain a list of highly stressful occupations that need less documentary or clinical evidence that their occupation is a significant contributor to their mental condition, such as PTSD. These 'first responder' jobs often include ambulance officers or emergency medical technicians, police officers, child safety workers, corrections staff, fire safety officers, and trauma care workers, to name a few. (5)

Quoting Safe Work Australia's workers’ compensation report for 2019-2020, over 40% of all serious occupational injury claims were from three industries, namely, healthcare and social assistance, construction, and manufacturing. (4)

  1. Establishing a Work-Related Psychological Condition

Unlike physical injuries, mental issues don't leave tangible marks or scars. This difficulty often makes it challenging for employees to prove that their illness is work-related. Here's what you can do:

  • Have your condition checked by a health professional, such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Keep all prescriptions and other evidence about your interactions with a mental health professional. (6)
  • If your doctor suspects that your condition is caused by a single event, such as armed robbery or kidnapping, keep documentary proof of the incident. The company should have investigated the incident. Ask for a copy of the results.    

You may also ask your employer for some input or assistance, as they're mandated by the law to assist you in filing a claim. Additionally, companies must implement mental health programs proactively to prevent employee burnout.

  1. Compensation Amounts Vary

Workers’ compensation for psychological conditions is done on an individual basis, often depending on several factors. Claim entitlement amount will depend on several factors, including your employer's liability, working conditions, the gravity of your injury, treatment requirements, prognosis, and long-term impacts.  

In general, almost 10,000 psychological injury claims are filed in Australia annually, which results in more than a week's work time off. Of all injury types, mental disorders required 15 working weeks off in 2013-2014. Compensation for such cases was also higher at AUD$25,800 than the median cost for other types, pegged at AUD$10,100 for the same period. (4)  

Concluding Thoughts

Individuals must protect their mental health at all costs. However, some occupations expose workers to repeated psychological trauma, and in rare cases, employees experience a traumatic event that will leave emotional and mental scars.

In such instances, companies must be responsible enough to assist both proactively and reactively. Regular mental health check-ups, stress, and incident debriefings may mitigate psychological injuries. Employers can make compensation claims processing less tedious to support their workers as a reactive measure.

References

  1. "Occupational Stress", Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/ccupational-health-stress-at-the-workplace 
  2. “Budget 2021–⁠22: Generational change and record investment in the health of Australians | Health Portfolio Ministers”, Source: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/budget-2021-22-generational-change-and-record-investment-in-the-health-of-australians#:~:text=The%20mental%20health%20toll%20on%20Australians%20both%20collectively,conservatively%2C%20at%20up%20to%20%2470%20billion%20per%20year.?msclkid=e1c1b48ac7cb11ecac18349dd26cf14f 
  3. "Mental Health and Well-being in Workers Compensation", Source: https://www.irmi.com/articles/expert-commentary/mental-health-and-well-being-in-workers-compensation 
  4. "Taking Action: A best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers' compensation sector", Source: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/resources-and-publications/guidance-materials/taking-action-best-practice-framework-management-psychological-claims-australian-workers-compensation-sector 
  5. "Psychological or Psychiatric Injuries", Source: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/claims-and-insurance/work-related-injuries/types-of-injury-or-illness/psychological-or-psychiatric-injuries 
  6. "Workers' Compensation Benefits for Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Other Mental Health Issues", Source: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/workers-comp-benefits-for-depression-anxiety-ptsd-and-mental-health-issues.html 
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