In this article, we’re exploring career progression after a psychological injury, focusing on what to consider before lodging a claim, returning to work after time away, and looking for your next job.

Psychological or mental health claims represent around 6% of all workers compensation claims (Safe Work Australia, 2021), and they are on the rise.


Considering lodging a mental health claim

If you believe that you have sustained an injury at work it is best to advise your manager or Return to Work (RTW) Coordinator that you intend to lodge a workers compensation claim. Typically your employer will lodge the claim on your behalf, but it is also possible for you to lodge it yourself, if you know which insurance company your employer is covered by.

After advising your employer of your intention to lodge a claim, the next step is to make a GP appointment to disclose the details of how the injury occurred and your intention to pursue a workers compensation claim. Your doctor will then provide you with a SIRA Certificate of Capacity, which is a legal document. It is important and your responsibility to review the information on the Certificate to ensure it has been completed correctly. This means ensuring that the Certificate has a valid diagnosis and that both you and your doctor have filled in and signed the relevant sections. If this information has not been completed correctly, you may not be entitled to weekly compensation under the workers compensation scheme.

You need to send the completed Certificate to your employer, who can lodge the claim on your behalf. If you are having difficulties with your claim lodgment and you know which insurance company to lodge with, you can lodge the claim yourself.

Returning to work

Health and wellbeing are negatively impacted by prolonged work absence and unemployment. Long-term unemployment can increase the challenge of re-entering the workforce, contributing to a downward spiral. The good news is that the opposite is also true. Good work is good for health and wellbeing, and for recovery from all types of injuries.

At EML, our case managers report many injured workers find jobs with a new employer when they’re ready to return to work. This is particularly common for claims involving allegations of bullying, harassment, negative workplace perceptions or feelings of injustice.

We generally find that the biggest influence on whether a worker will return to work with their pre-injury employer are the actions taken by their pre-injury employer. If your preference is to return to your pre-injury work, help your employer provide you with the support you need by being open to discussion and negotiating the terms of your return to work to promote sustainable recovery and maximum performance.

Staying at work or finding employment at another location or business helps workers’ self-esteem and sense of community and connectedness, provides a regular amount of physical activity, a daily structure and provides financial security.

Job-seeking after a psychological injury claim

If you have a workers compensation claim and you believe that alternative employment is the ultimate return to work goal, you should advise your treating team and case manager. Your case manager can discuss your goals with you and your treating team (likely in a medical case conference) to confirm this is the most realistic return to work goal for you.

If you have a claim, you can ask your case manager for support with job seeking. This generally involves facilitating a referral to an occupational rehabilitation provider, whose consultants will assist you with a wide range of job-seeking services including but not limited to:

  • CV and cover letter development
  • mock interviews
  • job-seeking skills training, helping you access available resources to find a job
  • work trials and SIRA programs that enhance your prospects of securing paid employment
  • Discussing claim history during recruitment

Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a safe environment and assist in making reasonable accommodations to ensure employees’ safety needs are met.

So it is appropriate for an employer to ask prospective employees if they have any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may impact their ability to perform the advertised role. It’s also appropriate for them to ask whether a potential employee requires any reasonable adjustments in order to carry out the advertised role.

Employers cannot ask a potential employee if they’ve ever claimed workers compensation because a person’s claim history isn’t relevant to their performance ability. This information could be discriminatory if the employer factors it into the decision about whether to hire the candidate (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2019).

If you are asked about your workers compensation claim history, the best response is to focus on whether you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may impact your capacity and what reasonable adjustments you require.

Failure to disclose pre-existing injuries or conditions that may impact your ability to perform a role limits the employer’s opportunity to accommodate and assist you, and in extreme cases can incur disciplinary action.

If you are asked about your workers compensation claim history, the best response is to focus on whether you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may impact your capacity, and what reasonable adjustments you require.

Looking after your mental wellbeing

Remember to take care of your mental health and wellbeing throughout your career. You cannot perform your best if your own mental wellbeing is poor.

Here’s a simple guide to looking after your mental wellbeing:

  1. Take a full lunch break, away from your work station to really get a break
  2. Start and finish work on time
  3. Maintain a balanced diet
  4. Keep physically active
  5. Get sufficient sleep
  6. Maintain a positive work-life balance: avoid checking work emails after hours or while on leave
  7. Recognise when you’re having a bad day or are under stress
  8. Reach out for help: sometimes a quick chat is all that’s needed, with a close work colleague in a break-out room
  9. If the matter is serious or is significantly impacting you, consider consulting your GP who is qualified to assess your health and can link you with appropriate community-based resources

Managing mental health claims

Psychological or mental health claims represent around 6% of all workers compensation claims (Safe Work Australia, 2021), and they are on the rise.

At EML we have dedicated teams for managing mental health claims, and psychology specialists providing advice as required by any case manager. Whilst around 6% of claims are primary psychological, the impact of a physical injury and a person’s psychosocial situation can increase the risk of secondary mental health impacts.

Information for this article was provided by EML Injury Management Specialist Alex Chen:

“Within my team, I am the subject matter expert on workplace injury management practices. My role is to support case managers with reviewing treatment and provide insight on the return to work process to help deliver the most effective return to life outcomes. I have university qualifications in psychology, health science and Rehabilitation and have worked firsthand with workers and employers in the management of both physical and psychological injuries.”

You can access a range of video resources, articles and community support services from our mental health collection.