Creating a positive, healthy workplace, can increase employee motivation, job satisfaction and wellbeing at work.

However, work related mental injury is an increasing cause of workers compensation claims. All employers therefore need to know their rights, obligations and preventative measures that can be taken to prevent mental health and injury in the workplace.

Our recent HR Roundtable addressed issues such as:

Can I dismiss an employee that is constantly taking sick days?
What are my obligations towards an employee who has suffered
a mental injury?
What can I do if an employee wants to come back to work?

Martin Reid Managing Principal, Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Workplace Relations Coulter Roache presented on the legal aspects around Managing sick or injured employees.

Work related mental injury statistics

  • 11% of all workers compensation claims in Victoria
  • 2nd most common cause of claims in Australia
  • Typical compensation per claim is $24,500 compared with $9,000 for all other claims
  • Typical time off work is 15.3 weeks, compared to 5.5 weeks for all other claims
  • 91% of these claims are attributed to stress including work pressure, harassment or bullying with other mental stress

Australian mental injury stats


In general, the cause of the mental injury determines the employer response. For example, the injury may be pre-existing, have arisen out of or in the course of any employment, be non-work related or could be disputed as to whether it is work related or not.

The way an employer can manage and respond to a mental injury and legal obligations and action that can be taken is a complex field and we advise you seek legal advice.

Martin Reid and the team at Coulter Roache Lawyers can assist.


Prevention of mental injury at work

Claire Nivarovich, Director Mental Health Programs, WorkSafe Victoria covered common causes of mental injury at work, as well as information about what employers can do to prevent this in their workplace. Claire demonstrated the WorkWell Toolkit, a practical resource organisations can implement for a healthier, more positive workplace.

Mental Health in Australia

  • 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime
  • 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health condition in any one year

Mental Health & WorkSafe

  • Mental injury claims are increasing
  • 6 months following mental injury only 54% have returned to work
  • By 2 years – 38% still have not returned to work

Mental Health in the Workplace

  • Good for business
  • A positive work environment can drive productivity and positive organisational culture
  • Reduce staff turnover
  • Investment in the promotion of positive mental health can result in a positive return on investment

Where can employers direct their efforts?

The workplace is a a complex environment.  So where can employers direct their efforts?

  1. Leadership
  2. Work design
  3. Environmental design



The WorkSafe identified work related factors that can create a risk of stress are:

Work demands

Levels of control over work

Levels of support by supervisors and colleagues

Role clarity and role conflict

Managing relationships

Managing change

Civility in the workplace

WorkSafe have developed a handy Guidebook for employers. You can download it here –“Preventing and managing work-related stress”. 


WorkWell Toolkit for Employers

Workwell is an online hub linking businesses to relevant tools and resources to support them in building mentally healthy workplaces. The toolkit brings together resources and ideas that have worked for all kinds of businesses.

Take the first steps on your workplace mental health and wellbeing journey by answering a few questions about your organisation. This information will allow suggested tailored actions and resources that have helped businesses like yours create healthier, more positive workplaces.

The WorkWell Toolkit is designed for business owners, people leaders, human resources and occupational health and safety professionals.

There’s about 26 questions to answer, so it will take around 10 minutes to complete.

We see this as a ‘must’ for all workplaces and encourage you to undertake the survey for your organisation. You can access more information about WorkWell here. 


Mental Health & Injury in the Workplace. Due to popular demand, the May. 2019 Harvest HR ‘Roundtable’ turned into ‘Theatre Style’ with the event held at WorkSafe’s Geelong office.



This information was included as part of a presentation to HR Roundtable attendees. It is intended for general use only and may not be applicable in every circumstance. You should always check any applicable legislation and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have complied with the law. Accordingly, Coulter Roache, WorkSafe or Harvest cannot be held responsible and extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for any particular purpose; or actions taken by third parties as a result of information contained in this blog. 

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