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Workcover stress claims by workers

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Victorian WorkCover legislation underwent a significant overhaul earlier this year.  

Significant amendments to that legislation have significantly increased worker’s rights to no fault compensation, including extended weekly benefit periods and lump sum amounts that can be claimed by injured workers.

WorkCover costs to employers will invariably increase as a result.

An important aspect of the WorkCover legislation amendments affects the ability for workers to claim WorkCover benefits resulting from mental injuries, principally stress claims.

Under WorkCover legislation reforms introduced by our then Premier, Jeff Kennett, the right of workers, who had suffered a mental injury, was lost where the injury was found to have arisen wholly or predominantly from reasonable action taken in a reasonable manner by the employer to transfer, demote or dismiss the worker.

Under the reforms of earlier this year, a WorkCover insurer may now reject liability for a mental injury where the injury arose wholly or predominantly from multiple actions, rather than an isolated incident, if any action taken by the employer that caused the injury is reasonable.

The lesson for employers is to ensure that actions undertaken by the employer in relation to its workers, including actions relating to counselling, promotion, demotion or termination, are conducted in a reasonable fashion and in a reasonable manner.

A further lesson for employers is to ensure that if a worker lodges a WorkCover claim, it provides promptly a comprehensive brief to their insurer of all relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged injury.

In addition to providing a comprehensive brief, we recommend that you follow up the WorkCover insurer on a regular basis to ensure that they are conducting all aspects of their investigation promptly and comprehensively.

If these simple rules are followed, employers will minimise the risk of a WorkCover claim being accepted, particularly in the case of work related mental injury claims.

If you have any questions regarding WorkCover issues in your business please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Workplace Relations lawyers for a confidential discussion.

Author:  Herb Fischbacher

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