This month, we discussed the impacts of Mental Health Workers Compensation.

This month, we discussed the tricky minefield which is workplace psychological injuries, how they arise, and when they are compensable. Bill McCarthy, BAL Special Counsel who has extensive experience in workers compensation and insurance law, shared some of his insights on the topic. Bill touched on:

The different types of workplace psychological injuries:

  • Psychological injury attributed to work-related stress may include such disorders as depression, burnout, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and adjustment disorder.

Some statistics about psychological injuries:

  • Psychological injury accounts for around 11% of accepted claims within the Comcare scheme.
  • Psychological injury accounts for approx. 30% of the cost of Comcare claims.
  • Workers with psychological injury are staying off work for longer. 55% of psychological claims that reach four weeks lost time continue on to 13 weeks of lost time.
  • The impact of mental harm is delayed recovery, slow return to work and increasing claim liabilities resulting in premium pressures.

What is adjustment disorder, and why is it controversial

  • The specific signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder may vary greatly from one affected person to the next. There are currently 6 recognised sub-types of adjustment disorder – Adjustment disorder with depressed mood, Adjustment disorder with anxiety, Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct, Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, and Adjustment disorder unspecified. There are so many different presentations of this disorder, and sometimes it feels as though it is a “waste-basket diagnosis” which is assigned to those who fail to meet the criteria for other mental disorders.

When is a psychological injury compensable?

A psychological injury is only compensable if it arises out of or in the course of employment. The employment must have been a significant, material, substantial or the major contributing factor to the injury. However, psychological injuries that have arisen out of ‘reasonable action’ taken by the employer are not compensable. For example, if an employee develops anxiety or depression as a result of a (fair) poor performance review, it is unlikely that that injury will be compensable.