Police and emergency workers: WorkCover reform critical

Tuesday 4 December 2018
Lisa Paul

The results from Beyond Blue’s first national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services workers is as staggering as we feared it would be.

The study reveals a struggling workforce, with clear indications that prompt change is needed to support affected police and emergency services workers.

In surveying 21,014 individuals, the survey found that police and emergency services workers are 10 times more likely to lodge a claim than other Australian worker.  This is not surprising considering the nature of the events and circumstances these brave individuals are exposed to.

The Beyond Blue survey revealed that individuals who were exposed to the WorkCover system found the experience was unhelpful and even detrimental to their recovery.  This is likely to be due to the difficult task of proving that their employment was a significant contributing factor to their development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health condition caused by psychological distress. It can also be due to the requirement to ‘prove’ an entitlement to the time off and treatment required to be able to recover from an injury.

With such a high volume of people lodging WorkCover claims and receiving limited support, the need for fundamental reform is clear.

At its core, the results demonstrate a clear need for change, and Beyond Blue calls on increased efforts by state governments, workplace health and safety regulators, workers’ compensation insurers and agencies to make effective changes.

In a pre-election promise the Victorian Labour government proposed a pilot scheme, and then gradual roll-out of immediate acceptance of a WorkCover claim for paramedics, police, Protective Services Officers (PSOs), firefighters and SES workers injured in the course of duty.  This is as opposed to the usual 38 days to have a claim accepted, and at times even longer waits to have treatment funding approved.

It is hoped that the immediate provisional acceptance of claims lodged by our police and emergency services personnel will allow for faster recovery times and more favourable outcomes for workers who require and deserve assistance when they need it most.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an illness or injury resulting from work-related trauma, we invite you to speak with one of our expert injury lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.

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