Work-related mental stress has become a major concern in workplaces in Australia because of the impact on individual employees and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims.
Besides the burden work-related mental stress places on the health and welfare of employees, the impact on productivity of workplaces and the Australian economy is substantial.
Work-related mental stress has been described as the adverse reaction experienced by employees when workplace demands and responsibilities are greater than the employee can comfortably manage or are beyond the employees’ capabilities.
An employee can claim compensation for mental stress if they consider their employment caused a new illness, or contributed to or aggravated an existing illness.
Return to work outcomes for mental stress claims are typically poorer in comparison to physical injury claims.
Research has shown that a significant factor influencing outcomes is the employees’ supervisor or manager, in particular, early contact from the workplace.
Effectively managing an injured employee depends on how those in a managerial capacity assist their employees through the workers’ compensation process; how they support their recovery and early return to work, irrespective of whether their claim for compensation is accepted.
Employees with a psychological injury claim do not return to work as quickly as those with claims for physical injuries.
Time away from work can be detrimental to longer term recovery outcomes so management support and assistance is critical to overcoming barriers to a safe return to work.
Managers need to understand their responsibilities for supporting employees with a compensation claim to return to work.
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