After decades of work from psychologists, mental health researchers, professional associations and unions, like the Victorian Psychologists Association, the Victorian Government finally recognised mental health injuries from work as an equally harmful occupational health and safety hazard as physical injuries.
The Victorian Government will undermine that work with their changes to the workers’ compensation scheme.
The changes will result in people experiencing stress from excessive workload or inappropriate behaviour and/or mental health injuries being denied access to WorkCover. These changes will have a direct impact on members who are already experiencing stress and burn out from excessive workloads.
The extent of the impact at this point remains unknown.
Now workers with mental health injuries will not be able to recover properly with the time and financial support they need.
Under the changes, workers won’t be able to claim weekly payments if they are unable to attend work due to stress from excessive workload or inappropriate behaviour, or due to mental injuries developing over time.
Any treatment would only be covered for 13 weeks after injury.
Workers with long-term injury and disability will also be kicked off the scheme if they can’t meet an arbitrary “20.1% Whole Person Impairment” test.
The guides are not designed for assessing work capacity with even the AMA Guides saying:
“It must be emphasised and clearly understood that impairment percentages derived according to the Guides criteria should not be used to make direct financial awards or direct estimates of disabilities”.
It makes no sense to us for the Victorian Government to make record investments in mental healthcare and include mental health as part of the state’s Occupational Health and Safety regulations, to then turn around and entirely undermine those achievements with these proposed changes to workers’ compensation.
We will let members know how they can help us oppose the government’s changes to the workers’ compensation scheme.
Related to this is our on-going concern about the inability for members to secure Flexible Working Arrangements despite the very real need for members to be able access this entitlement.
The inability of members to secure Flexible Working Arrangements fails to acknowledge each worker’s changing individual circumstances in a changing world. It’s also a failure of Health Services to see it as an opportunity to reduce burn out, workplace stress and acknowledge their workers have been under tremendous pressure for many years as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The Union continues to pursue Health Services over Flexible Working Arrangements, and we encourage members who have had their applications rejected to contact us.