*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.
Work-related mental health conditions are a major concern in Australian workplaces.
According to Safe Work Australia, mental health disorders are a set of symptoms consistent with the Diagnosic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as psychological injuries, which cause distress and interfere with a person’s functioning.
These symptoms can be short term or they can occur over many months or years and can significantly affect how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with others.
According to Safe Work Australia report (2015) between 2010 and 2015 the compensation and time off work related to mental health were almost triple the value of typical claims. 60% of these claims were made by workers aged 40 and over.
There are many workplace hazards that exposure to can adversely affect mental health. These can include high job demand, poor support, poor workplace relationships, poor management, poor environmental conditions and bullying and harassment. Bullying can cause both psychological and physical harm, making it a risk to health and safety.
Exposure to these hazards can result in workplace stress that in turn can lead to depression and anxiety.
So what legal options are available for a person who is suffering from a work-related mental health condition?
If the mental health condition arises out of circumstances of bullying and harassment and the person wants the bullying to stop, they can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop workplace bullying. The Fair Work Commission can hold a conciliation conference before an independent conciliator together with the employer and employee and assist the parties to resolve the dispute and help the parties return to a good working relationship.
The Australian Human Rights Commission also accepts complaints by workers if the bullying is linked to or based on a legally protected characteristic such as the person’s age, sex, race or disability.
If a person has a more serious mental health condition that arises from their work and they require medical treatment and time off work, then workers compensation provides financial compensation for workers that are injured in the course of their employment and provides for payment of medical treatment expenses, lost wages as well as lump sum for permanent injury.