Media Release

Mansfield Report highlights discrimination against psychologically injured workers

27 July 2018


The report of the Mansfield inquiry into the Return to Work Act, released yesterday, identifies the inherent unfairness and illogical manner in which psychiatric injuries are dealt with in comparison to other work related physical injuries when considering lump sum compensation for permanent impairment. 

In the report, Mr Mansfield noted:

There would appear to be no rational reason for distinguishing psychiatric injuries from other types of injuries in terms of compensability or causation under the RTW Act.”

The scheme currently prohibits anyone who suffered a work related psychiatric injury from receiving any lump sum compensation in recognition of their impairment.  That is so even though a more difficult test is applied to psychiatric injuries in order to obtain other forms of compensation.

To treat impairment from psychiatric injury in this different manner is unjust and demonstrates an archaic attitude toward mental impairment.

Some current examples in the scheme illustrate the gross unfairness of treating psychiatric and physical injuries differently.

One example involves a woman who was raped whilst at work and, as a consequence, suffered a severe PTSD.  She has not been able to return to work or reconnect with society in any meaningful way.  Despite the acknowledged severe consequences she gets nothing for that permanent impairment.  If she had suffered the same results from a physical injury she would have been eligible for between $125,000 to $500,000.

Another example involves a young man working at a service station.  On three occasions in his short career the premises were robbed.  On the final occasion, in an agitated state the staff member chased the thief out of the shop and was shot at.  He narrowly escaped serious physical injury but suffered a serious psychiatric injury.  While it has been accepted that if he is in the most severe case of permanent impairment, he has received no compensation for that impairment. 

The Society is pleased to note that the report has given unqualified support for the continued operation of the SAET and its dispute resolution process.  Mr Mansfield noted the value of the involvement of the legal profession in that successful process and has recommended that this continue.

The Society is also pleased that the report has rejected the recommendations in the ReturnToWork Corporation’s submissions that were designed to reduce benefits to injured workers and restrict access to justice by injured workers and registered employers. 

As noted by Mr Mansfield, the ReturnToWork Corporation presently has a dual role both as assessor of claims and as the regulator of the system.  Whilst this conflict of interest was recognised Mr Mansfield did not recommend a separation of the roles at this stage.  The Society considers that if a more balanced approach from the Corporation is not demonstrated in the future, then the issue may need to be revisited.

Tim Mellor


The Law Society of SA