Many professions have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but few have experienced more stress and pressure than nurses. Al Jazeera recently reported on the toll a combination of staff shortages and increasing COVID-19 hospitalisations is taking on nurses in New South Wales.
Nurses, midwives, paramedics, and other medical professionals throughout Australia are struggling to cope with the influx of patients amid the recent spike in COVID-19 patients infected with the Omicron variant. This has led to widespread physical and mental health issues in the medical profession, including overwhelming feelings of stress and exhaustion. This condition is known as “employee burnout” or “workplace burnout,” and it can lead to fatigue, changes in behaviour, increased errors in judgement, and more.
Although you may be aware of WorkCover benefits for physical injuries sustained at work, WorkCover also provides payments for mental injuries workers suffer in the course of their employment. The WorkCover lawyers at Henry Carus + Associates can assist you with your claim if you have suffered burnout from an unreasonably stressful or demanding job.
What Are Provisional Payments?
Last year WorkSafe Victoria introduced a new category of workers’ compensation benefits. Known as provisional payments, these benefits provide support for workers who have suffered a mental injury due to their work.
Provisional payments cover the cost of “reasonable treatment and services for work-related mental injuries.” This includes:
- Visits to your GP
- Appointments with a psychiatrist or psychologist
- Medication to manage the mental injury
The first step is submitting a WorkCover mental injury claim. Provisional payments are available while you await a decision on your claim. Even if your WorkCover claim is rejected, you can still receive provisional payments for a maximum of 13 weeks.
If your WorkCover claim is approved, you may be entitled to additional benefits. These include payments for treatment expenses and weekly payments for time off work, as well as other benefits if a work-related injury, illness, or condition persists for more than a year.
What Is a Work-Related Mental Injury?
Some stress is a given in just about any line of work. However, when the stress mounts with no relief, the adverse effects on a workers’ psyche can be immense. When there is no end to work-related stress in sight, workers are likely to experience symptoms of burnout:
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chronic or recurrent headaches
- Neck and back pain
- Muscle soreness and stiffness
- Pain in the chest
- Indigestion, heartburn, and pain in the stomach and/or bowels
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lack of satisfaction in your work
- Feelings of pessimism and cynicism
- Increased consumption of alcohol to cope with job-related stress
Everyone handles stress differently. However, some of the common mental health conditions and injuries that can arise due to unrelenting stress and pressure in the workplace include:
- Adjustment disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
These and other psychological disorders can also impact a worker’s physical health, potentially resulting in sleep disturbances, headaches, chest pains, and more. Unfortunately, it often takes some sort of crisis – such as a panic attack or collapsing on the job – for workers to recognise that the job is having a severe and adverse effect on their health.
Employers are required to take reasonably practicable steps to address the mental health of employees. This condition is satisfied if the employer takes simple steps such as enacting policies to combat common causes of work-related stress (such as sexual harassment, workplace bullying, etc.), encouraging workers to communicate stress to a manager or supervisor, and providing support to employees who experience work-related stress.
Provisional payments only last up to 13 weeks. If your employer takes reasonably practicable steps to limit and manage employee stress (like the steps described above), you will not be able to claim additional benefits for a work-related mental injury. So, if your work-related stress continues to impact your health, it is important to seek qualified legal counsel as soon as possible.
Extreme stress in the workplace is not something employees should simply have to “deal with.” If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, you may be entitled to compensation through WorkCover.
At Henry Carus + Associates, our philosophy is You Deserve More. Our lawyers will explore and fight for all of the benefits you may be entitled to for a work-related mental injury, including provisional payments, compensation for treatment expenses, weekly payments, and more.
Please call Henry Carus + Associates at 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our WorkCover lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout VIC.