5 January 2020 posted by Frances Johnson

Managing a psychological claim can be difficult. The prognosis can be poor, the worker may be reluctant to participate, workplace issues may be present, non-compensable issues may be present and a return to work appears highly unlikely. However, a firm strategy along with collaboration with all stakeholders can facilitate, and safe and durable return to work as this case demonstrates.

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Last year we worked with a very mature lady who was experiencing work-related issues which lead to stress, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  The initial meeting was challenging to arrange. Her loved ones were protective of our client and communicating with her directly was initially delayed. Establishing trust with her family resulted in an Initial Meeting taking place at her home. At this initial meeting, our client was adamant that she would never be able to return to work. She was employed in a managerial role and was no longer confident that she could perform, this or any other role.

Following this meeting, we pursued a mediation session with the employer. All parties were initially reluctant, but we were able to convince each party that the environment would be safe and the session productive. Each stakeholder took time to consider the process and eventually all parties agreed to participate in the workplace mediation session. The insurer supported the mediation session and offered to attend if required.

Following several sessions, the employer and our client agreed to develop a suitable duties plan. This plan entailed a graded return to work with staged upgrades. This plan gave everyone a map forward and a degree of certainty in the process.

Our client returned to work in accordance with the plan but unfortunately experienced non-compensable issues which may have impacted the outcome. Approval was sought, and received,  from the insurer for counselling sessions. This counselling assisted our client to develop strategies to manage the potential barriers.

Our client was able to overcome the issues and ultimately return to pre-injury duties. Given the initial prognosis from all stakeholders, this is an outstanding result for all parties. Without the co-operation and dedication of all people involved in this case, the outcome would not have been achieved. Open collaboration with all parties including family, NTD, Psychologist, employer, insurer and worker contributed to this outcome.

Psychological claims are challenging, but with the right assistance, at the right time, a durable and safe return to work is possible.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au