When people think of workplace injury, they usually imagine physical wounds, such as accidentally cutting your hand off in a factory.
But the truth is, it’s not just physical – workplace stress has become recognised globally as a major challenge to workers’ health and the health of an organisation. In fact, stress is now the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia.
Workplace Injury Claims
Stress injuries fall under broader workplace injury laws that are covered under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. In plain terms, the Act says that if your work is the major factor behind an injury, it is considered a workplace injury, whether physical or psychological.
For more general information on workplace injuries, including some frequently asked questions, visit our Work Related Injury page.
Claiming work-related stress injuries can be very difficult, as the harm is not always obvious and immediate, unlike a broken arm or sore back.
Everyone experiences stress at work – so how do you know when it becomes a compensable injury?
According to WorkCover QLD, when stressful situations go unresolved for a long time the body is kept in a constant state of stimulation. This can result in physiological and/or psychological illness.
Factors that can contribute to work-related stress include:
- Work demands
- Low control
- Poor support
- Lack of role clarity
- Poorly managed relationships
- Low levels of recognition and reward
- Poorly managed change
- exposure to a traumatic event or workplace violence
- harassment or bullying
These can lead to symptoms such as:
- Emotional distress
If untreated, this can eventually manifest as injuries such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Immune deficiency
- Gastrointestinal disorder
- Psychiatric/psychological illness
What is NOT a Work-Related Stress Injury
Aside from the difficulty in identifying stress injuries, the ‘reasonable management action’ defence is one of the biggest challenges to a work-related stress injury claim. Employers can often rely on this defence, which causes uncertainty when considering a workplace injury claim.
For example, if you suffer from depression as a result of excessive workload and inadequate staffing, the employer could argue these problems were “reasonable management” under the circumstances.
Examples of other potentially unpleasant experiences that fall under the ‘reasonable management action’ defence include:
- Transferring, demoting, disciplining, retrench or dismissing you – even if you were a hard worker and did a good job
- Not awarding or providing a promotion – even if you deserve it and/or were previously promised one
For a reasonable management action such as a dismissal to be challenged, it may fall under another action, such as a workplace dispute.
Seeking Legal Help
Because of the difficulties described above, stress claims are particularly suited to seeking legal advice. It is highly advised to see a competent injury lawyer if workplace stress has adversely impacted you.
If you lodge a claim yourself and it is rejected by WorkCover then you can also seek legal advice as to whether you should appeal to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
For more information, get in contact with one of our personal injury law experts at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone on (07) 3009 8444.