Check out the latest insights on the Centre for Optimism Blog - Learn More

No More Compo for Stress and Burnout in Victoria

I am afraid I can say I told you so.

The Victorian Government has announced changes to its Workers' Compensation system.

A press release from the Premier states, "Workers with stress and burnout claims will no longer be able to access weekly payments from WorkCover – instead, they will be able to access provisional payments for 13 weeks to cover medical treatment, alongside enhanced psychosocial supports to help them return to the workplace or training pathways. WorkSafe will continue to focus on preventing workplace injuries and to support workers who make claims for physical injuries, workplace harassment, bullying and traumatic events such as those experienced by frontline workers."

The Premier said the scheme is “broken”, with the number of claims and their cost tripling since 2010. This is partially driven by mental injury claims – now representing 16% of new claims – which Andrews said was never envisaged when the scheme was first set up by the Cain Labor government in the mid-1980s.

“The nature of injury, the nature of illness and indeed the nature of work has profoundly changed since then, That’s why we’ve seen claims in this mental health space go from a very, very small number to what is predicted to be half the cost of the scheme in just the next six or seven years.”

Minister for WorkSafe Danny Pearson said that when WorkCover was introduced in 1986, mental health claims made up 2 per cent of claims. He said that figure was now 16 per cent, and those claims accounted for 50 per cent of WorkCover's cost.

What could be driving the marked rise in stress and burnout claims?

What factors might lead so many Victorians to experience burnout or stress to the point of being unable to work?

Might the spike be tied to pandemic-related stressors, including repeated lockdowns and the shift to hybrid work conditions?

Could the surge be due to increased societal and organisational awareness of mental health, leading to reduced stigma and enabling more people to acknowledge their stress and seek help, thus, resulting in a rise in claims?

Is workplace culture playing a role? Do high-pressure environments, excessive workloads, long hours, lack of autonomy, and inadequate managerial support prevalent in Victorian workplaces contribute to stress and burnout?

Does contemporary Australian societal culture factor into this equation?  There's greater pessimism and less optimism.

Could alterations in decision-making processes at WorkSafe or within courts and tribunals impact this trend?

Finally, could fraudulent claims be part of the issue?

In its 1921-22 Annual Report, Worksafe said, "Workplace mental injury continues to be one of our greatest challenges.  In 2021-22, in support of the whole-of-government approach to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, WorkSafe released its first Mental Health Strategy. The strategy is designed to build awareness of the importance of workplace mental health, while working to strengthen an employer’s capability to provide a positive workplace culture.  The focus of activity in 2021-22 has been on the underlying causes of mental injury with programs targeting a range of psychosocial hazards including stress, bullying, fatigue, work-related violence and gendered violence, including sexual harassment."

The report quotes a consultant firm Lysander as saying "the Australian infrastructure construction industry is challenged by both rising project costs and low profit margins, with additional stress coming from the competitive tendering approach to winning work. It says stress, wellbeing and burnout are known issues but leaders often feel powerless and ill-equipped to address them."


According to Karen Batt, the leader of the Victorian branch of the Community and Public Sector Union, the government's actions may result in the reversal of Cain's reforms and potentially prompt workers to seek legal action.

The secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, Luke Hilakari, said: “We think it’s a very healthy thing that injured workers with mental health claims are coming forward. You can’t see a psychiatrist for anywhere between six and 12 months, you can’t see a psychologist anywhere between like three to four months.”



Keep up to date with the latest from Centre for Optimism

We appreciate any contribution you can make to help us spread optimism with the world
Give Today

Connect With Us

We love to connect with everyone who is ready to open up and share their optimisim.