Life is full of stress, to varying degrees. There's good stress, bad stress, high stress, and low stress. Although stress is not unusual at work, it can be very dangerous if it is not appropriately managed.
Workers who have experienced workplace stress which is persistent, or severe in its intensity and has caused a recognised psychological injury can bring a claim for workers compensation.
The claims process can be a little tricky. Nothing (including this article) beats personalised legal advice, based on your circumstances. At Kells that advice is free and we are here to assist you at any stage of the claim.
In order to help you understand the process, we have detailed four important steps below.
Step 1: See Your Doctor or Psychologist
A worker can make a claim for stress if it has caused a psychological injury, which carries a medical diagnosis. Seeking medical help is a good idea.
In order to work out whether or not you have sustained a psychological injury you will need to consult your doctor.
Your doctor or psychologist will provide a medical diagnosis and some advice about what treatment is appropriate. This is not just an important part for any claim, but it is also important for your wellbeing.
Your doctor should complete a 'Certificate of Capacity' or a Workers Compensation medical Certificate in order to determine whether you are fit for work.
As you are only entitled to compensation for a diagnosable psychological injury and not for mere emotional upset or distress, you should ensure your workers compensation certificate contains a proper diagnosis with medical terminology.
Step 2: Confirm What Caused the Psychological Condition
In order to make a claim a psychological injury must be either completely caused by work, or substantially contributed to by the conditions of your work. Sometimes lawyers refer to this as a 'causal link' between your injury and your employment.
A stress condition cannot be compensable if it is found to be caused by personal factors which are not work related, such as relationship, financial or health struggles.
Some common psychological hazards at work include: high job pressures, poor workplace relationships, low role clarity, poor organisational management around change or promotions, unreasonable or impossible deadlines, exposure to trauma or violence, bullying, sexual harassment, and bad working conditions with poor support.
Step 3: Notify your Employer
You must notify your employer that you have sustained a psychological injury. You can notify the employer verbally or in writing, but it is best to do this in writing so that you have a record. You should include your full name and contact details, details of your treating doctor, and a short description of your psychological injury and how it occurred.
If your workplace has a workplace register of injuries, such as a physical book or an electronic log, the entry into the register satisfies the requirement to give notice to your employer.
In order to officially make a claim for workers compensation benefits in NSW you will need to provide your employer a copy of the Workers Compensation Medical Certificate which has been completed by your doctor. This is important.
You should also complete a worker's compensation claim form and submit the completed claim form to you employer or their workers compensation insurer. Sometimes, if the employer or the insurer has sufficient information, the need for a claim form can be waived. You usually have a time limit of six months from the date of the injury to bring a claim.
Step 4: Insurer to Accept or Deny the Claim
Once the employer becomes aware of the work-related psychological injury, they must ensure their workers compensation insurer is notified within 48 hours.
It is a good idea to ask your employer for the name of their insurer. The employer must provide this information to you.
Once a complete claim has been received, the insurer has 21 days to either accept or deny liability for the psychological injury and any loss sustained as a result.
Always: Seek Legal Advice
If you have sustained a psychological injury, we are here to help you.
Our lawyers are Approved Legal Service Providers with the Workers Compensation Independent Review Office (WIRO). This means you will not need to pay any legal fees in relation to a claim for workers compensation whatsoever.
Making a successful claim is not always easy.
In cases where the conduct that caused the stress is subtle, it can be difficult to establish a claim. You will not be entitled to compensation if your psychological injury was caused by your employer taking reasonable action, this includes things such as performance appraisal, dismissal, and disciplinary actions.
As you can see, each claim really depends on the facts. It is best to get personalised advice to avoid any further emotional distress.
At Kells we are passionate about supporting injured workers, please contact our compensation team so that we can assist you to understand your entitlements and the claims process.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.