The Tasmanian Government has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to propose a change to PTSD compensation for public sector workers.
Effectively, should the laws be passed, it will mean public sector workers claiming compensation for PTSD will not need to prove they developed PTSD from their work. This onus of proof would be reversed to any employer who challenges the worker’s claim.
This proposed legislative change to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 is aimed at first respondents, though it also applies more broadly to other public sector workers such as paramedics, fire-fighters and police.
In his ministerial statement on 25 September 2018, Guy Barnett, Minister for Building and Construction, said:
“It will remove a potential source of stress for those who are suffering with PTSD, and highlight the importance of helping people return to meaningful work. Claiming workers compensation can be daunting, challenging or stressful process, particularly if the claim is mental health related.”
Indeed, those suffering from PTSD find it difficult to claim compensation, as it can often be a secondary injury and difficult to diagnose.
It is hoped these laws will reduce the stigma often associated with mental health and encourage those struggling with mental health concerns to communicate with their employer.
The Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the 2019 autumn session as the Department of Justice and WorkCover Tasmania Board consult widely to progress the legislative presumption.
One of the issues to further consider is whether the presumption should be applied to broader occupational groups in the private sector and what other options are available to support workers with PTSD more broadly.
The proposed changes reflect a number of Canadian Provinces which have amended their legislation. However, no other Australian jurisdiction currently has made steps to implement such new laws.
It reported that at least 9000 emergency service workers around Australia live with or are affected by symptoms of PTSD.