What is Stress Leave and How Does It Work?
Stress leave refers to the time taken off work for stress; however, there is no specific form of leave classified as “stress leave” in NSW. Instead, stress leave may be time taken off in the form of unpaid leave, sick leave, annual leave or a WorkCover claim. If you’re taking sick leave due to a stress-related illness, the length of time you can take will depend on your annual sick leave allowance.
In accordance with the Fair Work Ombudsman, “An employee can take paid sick leave when they can’t work because of a personal illness or injury. This can include stress and pregnancy-related illnesses.”
This means employers should allow workers to take paid sick leave if suffering from stress-related illnesses or injuries; however, this does not act as a long-term solution to stress-related disorders that may require ongoing treatment and greater time off.
The entitlements provided for stress leave in NSW are largely dependent on your employment contract, as it is accounted for by your annual sick leave allowance and/or other leave allowances you may be entitled to in your contract.
How Do I Know If I Have Work-Related Stress?
Signs of Stress
When you’re under a lot of mental stress at work, you can notice the following symptoms:
- Anxiety, irritability, or depression
- Sleeping issues, apathy, and a loss of enthusiasm for the job
- Concentration issues
- Tension in the muscles or headaches
- Problems with the stomach
- Withdrawal from social situations
Examples of Work-Related Stress and Psychological Injury
Various disorders can result in workers’ compensation claims in NSW as a result of world-related stress, including:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Adjustment Disorder
Various workplace-related factors may lead to these conditions, including:
- Workplace anxiety
- Bullying/ Harassment
- Working in hazardous conditions
- A painful experience
- A physical ailment
Can Workers Compensation Claims cover stress?
Whilst stress is not covered under WorkCover, you can claim, you can receive workers’ compensation for qualifying stress-related conditions known as a ‘psychological injury’. As such, if you suffer from a stress-related ailment, you may be entitled to lodge a workers compensation claim if your GP diagnoses you as suffering a recognised psychological injury on your certificate of capacity. If your job has caused you to develop a stress-related illness, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation to cover wages and treatment while off work.
To claim workers compensation for a psychological injury, you must lodge a claim within six months of becoming aware of your psychological injury. You’ll need to show that work was the main contributing factor to your condition.
How to Successfully Claim Compensation for Work-Related Stress?
As outlined above, if you want to lodge a workers compensation claim for a stress-related condition caused by your work, you will require a valid medical diagnosis of the psychological injury, such as diagnosed anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder . Any claims should be made within six months of becoming aware of the injury, and you must be able to prove that work was the main contributing factor in causing your condition.
To make a workers’ compensation claim you need to prove either:
- The psychological injury occurred during your employment, and
- Your employment with your employer was the main contributing factor to you having contracted the illness.
To ensure you receive the best outcome in entering a workers’ compensation claim, one of our specialist lawyers at Burke Mead Lawyers can provide you with the most appropriate advice to assist you in your claim for compensation.
Do You Get Paid for Stress Leave in Australia?
If the relevant workers compensation insurer accepts you are suffering a recognised psychological injury as a result of your employment, you are entitled to be compensated for time off work without using your regular sick leave entitlements. Further weekly payments and funds for medical expenses may be received to help aid your treatment and recovery.
If you are experiencing a reduced capacity to work, you can claim an appropriate percentage of your regular pre-injury wage. If it can be proven that your psychological injury was the result of negligence by your employer, you might also be able to sue your employer for what is known as Work Injury Damages for past loss of earnings and future loss of earnings.
You may only claim work injury damages if you have at least 15 per cent permanent impairment and have already received all statutory lump sum entitlements.
Receiving work injury damages will mean that you will no longer receive any kind of compensation through workers insurance.
How Long Can You Be Off With Work-Related Stress?
Subject to the position of the insurer and the evidence of your treatment providers, you may be entitled to an extended period of paid time off without utilising sick leave, as well as a variety of other benefits to aid in your treatment and recovery from your psychological injuries.
In most cases, weekly workers’ compensation benefits will continue in NSW, until:
- You’re able to go back to work
- You achieve an agreement on compensation for work-related injuries
- You have received a total of 260 weeks’ (5 years) of payments
- You reach retirement age
Can I Be Fired While on Stress Leave?
Under Part 8 of the NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987, businesses are not able to dismiss an employee who has suffered a work injury in the first 6 months they are unable to return to work. If an employer terminates an employee within this ‘protected time’, the employer may be liable for a fine of up to $11,000.
Are You Making a Workers Compensation Claim for Workcover Stress Leave? Contact Burke Mead Lawyers to Understand Your Eligibility and Rights
If you are suffering work-related stress that has caused you to suffer a recognised psychological injury, you may be eligible to claim workers’ compensation, and it is important you seek legal advice. The team at BurkeMead Lawyers are experienced legal professionals in workers’ compensation and psychological injury claims, and can provide you with the necessary advice and guidance to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your claim.
About the Author
Sean is a member of the personal injury team with extensive experience in representing injured clients at the Personal Injury Commission as well as in the District and Supreme Courts of NSW.