Psychiatric/Psychological Injury at work – Subject to Workcover Claim

In Queensland, Worker’s Compensation legislation is to support workers who have been injured at work to help get them back on their feet. WorkCover QLD is designed to assist workers particularly in relation to rehabilitation needs as a result of an injury. In relation to psychiatric work injuries, there are some different considerations.

There is an exception to the general rule in that if a psychiatric/psychological injury is as a result of a ‘reasonable management action’, then the psychological injury will generally not be accepted as a Worker’s compensation claim.

Unfortunately the reality in Queensland is that often insurers and employers take advantage of this exclusion.

The effect of this is that it often leaves people who suffer such injuries without proper recourse in circumstances where they should be allowed treatment.

A work injury can arise in a number of different scenarios. It could be due to the workplace setup or conduct by a supervisor or coworker.

It is somewhat difficult to sometimes isolate how a workplace injury should not be seen as the subject of a worker’s compensation claim.

In a recent decision given by the Industrial Relations Commission in McPherson v Worker’s Compensation Regulator [2018] QIRC, the commission has acted to limit the exception created under the WorkCover QLD legislation in relation to psychological/psychiatric injuries which are the subject of a Workcover claim.

Within that case, we commission heard evidence of a worker’s treatment by a supervisor, which in the circumstances, seem to be inappropriate.

The commission considered, in that case, what the meaning of ‘reasonable management action’ meant within a workplace environment. The court held that the term should be broad rather narrowly. In this case, the commission agreed with the position of Mr McPherson in that the act by the employer was not seen to be an act fitting within the meaning of ‘reasonable management’. As a result of this, the work injury suffered by Mr McPherson which was of a psychiatric nature, was therefore allowed and an order was made that it should correctly be a subject of a WorkCover QLD claim.

It is important to therefore ensure that in circumstances where a work injury is sustained, then the worker’s right must be protected. Employers and insurers often reject claims for work injuries which arise as a result of a psychological/psychiatric nature due to the specific provisions in the act concerning reasonable management.

If you are looking at lodging a worker’s compensation claim in relation to a psychiatric/psychological injury as a result of something that happened within a workplace, then you should consult expert legal advice if your Workcover Claim is not accepted in the first instance by WorkCover QLD.

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