To make a Workcover claim for stress, you need to have been diagnosed with a qualifying stress-related condition, which is referred to as a psychological injury. So it’s important that your GP correctly diagnoses your psychological condition on your certificate of capacity – for example, ‘Adjustment Disorder’. Your claim will be declined if the doctor refers to your injury as “stress”.
The most common workers compensation claims for stress are for:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Adjustment Disorder
Some examples of the events that can cause these conditions include:
- Work stress
- A traumatic event
- Working dangerous hours
- A physical injury
To make a successful psychological injury claim, you must first:
- Prove to WorkCover that you have a work-related medical mental health injury, such as anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. (Work stress, on its own, as tough as it may be, is not enough to make a claim.)
- Establish that the job was the cause of your injury.
- Notify your employer with 30 days of the injury occurring.
Stress is not considered as an injury by itself under the workers compensation schemes in Australia. However, aggravated stress can cause a psychological condition that may qualify as an injury and enable you to claim compensation based on it.
Stress, anxiety and other mental health-related claims are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. However, many states do often allow employees to collect workers’ compensation for stress-related injuries
Significant contributing factor test
If you have a pre-existing psychological condition the ‘significant contributing factor’ test also applies.
To receive compensation, your work must be found to be a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the recurrence, aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation or deterioration of your pre-existing psychological condition. The same test applies to pre-existing physical injuries.
The courts have interpreted ‘significant’ in ‘significant contributing factor’ to mean of ‘considerable amount or effect’. In deciding if work is a ‘significant contributing factor’, the courts consider the length and type of employment, work duties, the likelihood of the injury occurring regardless, hereditary risks, lifestyle and activities outside of work.
Reasonable management action defence
You cannot claim compensation if your psychological injury is caused wholly or predominately by management action found to have been taken on reasonable grounds and conducted in a reasonable manner. This is known as the ‘reasonable management action’ defence, and it can completely defeat a worker’s claim.
The definition of management action is very broad, but it includes performance reviews, suspension, reclassification and dismissal of workers. The onus is on the employer to show that its management action was taken on reasonable grounds and in a reasonable manner. If the employer proves he or she acted reasonably, to onus switches to the worker to show their injury was not caused wholly or predominantly by the management action but by other work factors.
Typical types of unreasonable management action include:
- Bullying and harassment
- Lack of procedural fairness
- An excessive workload, and
- Lack of relevant training.
Dr Nicola Gates is a Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist with over twenty-five years of clinical experience in assessing and treating adults with acquired neurological conditions such as brain injury, stroke and dementia. She completes medico-legal and occupational capacity assessments, and provides psychological and rehabilitative therapies.
Dr Nicola Gates has consulted to Federal and State organisations including Sydney Water, Ausgrid, Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, TfNSW, NSW Trust and Guardian, and Sydney Council, and private organisations such as insurance companies, legal firms, Deloitte, BUPA, Genworth, and Integria. She has also worked with hundreds of individuals from all backgrounds and provided health seminars to many more.
Registrations & Memberships
- AHPRA Psychologist, endorsed Clinical Neuropyshcology
- Registered as a Medicare Provider
- Registered with SIRA
- Workers’ Compensation provider
- Member College of Clinical Neuropsychloogy
- Member Australian Psychological Society
- Registered with PsyBA as a Psychologist Supervisor, and Trainer in Psychology Supervision.
- BA Hons Psychology, Victoria University
- MPhil Psychology, Massey University
- MA Clinical Neuropsychology University of Melbourne
- PhD UNSW School of Psychiatry
- Certified Trainer of Supervisors for Psychologists
- TAFE Certificate IV Training and Assessment Dip VET