Injured workers face hostility

For people on workers’ compensation, coping with injury or illness may be the least of their worries.

Dealing with uncaring and hostile employers and/or insurers is a far greater cause of stress to people on workers’ compensation than their injuries and/or illnesses.

This is revealed in a survey of NSW workers, presented to the state parliamentary committee that recommended drastic cuts to workers’ compensation benefits.

Carried out by the Injured Workers’ Support Network, the survey received detailed responses from more than 300 people who were either receiving workers’ compensation, in dispute over their claims, or back at work in a limited capacity.

chart2Of those surveyed, 42% nominated dealing with their employer/insurer as the biggest cause of stress. A further 20% said dealing with the workers’ compensation system was the major stress factor. Only 16% named their injury or illness as the most stressful factor.

An alarming 59% of survey respondents reported having contemplated suicide following their injury. Fifty-five per cent said their relationships had suffered significantly and 34% were now separated or divorced.

Convenor for the Injured Workers’ Support Network, Michelle Burgess, said the survey showed many injured workers experienced the claims management process as hostile and uncaring.

“Unnecessary and often inappropriate pressures are being placed on many injured workers, which do not assist their rehabilitation needs,” Michelle said. “In too many cases, injured workers report that employers do everything they can to stop them from returning to work and that insurers attempt to bully them and their treating doctors into treatment schedules that ignore medically accepted treatment standards.

“Insurers routinely deny and delay treatments and then fail to monitor and manage ongoing treatments when they are finally approved.”

Poor case management, by insurers who were poorly equipped to understand or appropriately manage many of the cases they receive, was also a major contributing factor to cost blowouts in the workers’ compensation system, Michelle said.

“Any attempt to reduce benefits will add further hardship on people who already consider current benefits to be both unfair and inadequate.”


Top: “Every day I have pain. At every step the insurer has resisted paying for treatment.” — RN Emily Orchard