Are you suffering from work related stress or is your job causing you to experience stress related symptoms and are you wondering if you can take leave or claim workers compensation? 

Paid sick leave is not only restricted to injury for personal illness but can also include work related stress. 

Stress at work generally relates to a feeling of being overwhelmed and can arise due to unmanageable workloads, lack of resources or where employees feel their skillset is not adequately matched to the job requirements.

Prolonged work-related stress may cause physiological or psychiatric symptoms.

It is important to understand your rights to stress leave entitlements and workers compensation so that you do not also suffer economically.

Leave entitlements

Personal/carer’s leave is intended to help employees cope with a range of contingencies such as personal illness or injury, carer’s responsibilities, and other emergencies. The entitlement to personal/carer’s leave comes from the National Employment Standards (NES) which applies to workers covered by the national workplace relations system. It sets out minimum standards of employment for employees. The NES states that fulltime employees are entitled to 10 days annually of paid personal/carer’s leave. This includes sick leave which covers illness such as stress and anxiety.

Part-time employees have pro-rata personal/carer’s leave entitlements. Casual employees do not qualify for this leave. 

The amount of leave you are entitled to may also depend on your specific employment contract which should include how many hours of personal leave you have. 

You may have to give notice or provide evidence to your employer to get paid personal/carer’s leave. If you fail to provide your employer with evidence if asked, you may not be entitled to be paid. The type of evidence requested must always be reasonable in the circumstances.

If you are unclear as to your leave entitlements, we recommend you speak to an experienced lawyer.  

Types of stress related claims

The most common types of stress related workers compensation claims include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder. These conditions may be caused by:

  • work stress or a traumatic event
  • bullying, harassment, and intimidation
  • working dangerous hours 
  • a physical injury 
  • workplace conflict with a manager or colleague

Can I claim workers compensation for workplace stress?

Generally, yes. If you are suffering from a work related stress, you should notify your employer as soon as you can and make sure the incident is recorded in a register of incidents or injuries.

Your entitlement to compensation begins on the first day that you suffer an incapacity to attend your normal pre-injury work duties. 

The next step is to complete a claim form. In South Australia, a ReturnToWork SA Work Capacity Certificate Form, or a Medical Certificate will need to be completed by your doctor or treating psychologist and this form will then accompany the claim form. It is also possible to lodge an injury claim by phone. The ReturnToWork SA website provides the telephone contact information for Employers Mutual Limited and Gallagher Bassett Services. 

In South Australia, Employers Mutual Limited and Gallagher Bassett Services manage the claims for most employers on behalf of ReturnToWork SA. Some large employers manage their own workers compensation matters. These self-insured employers operate inside the same legal framework but manage their own claims.

Once you have lodged a worker’s compensation claim and where the compensating authority accepts liability, you should immediately begin to receive weekly income support payments if you do not have capacity to attend work. You should also be informed of your entitlement to the reimbursement of your reasonably incurred medical expenses and further expenses paid for by the compensating authority. These payments are important, especially if you are not able to work as a result of the stress related injury. 

If you believe your stress related injury is insignificant and not worth claiming, seek legal advice as to your entitlements regardless, as some injuries worsen over time leaving the injured person with significant loss. 

Your claim for a stress related injury should take into consideration the circumstances and cause of your injury. The worker’s compensation scheme in South Australia is sometimes able to support the retraining or reallocation of an injured worker into a different role or duties in order to support a sustainable return to work.


Prolonged work-related stress can cause physiological problems and even serious psychiatric impairments if not addressed.

Under the National Employment Standards, employees may use personal/carer’s leave to take time off work if they are feeling stressed.

If you are suffering from a workplace stress related injury, you may also be entitled to claim workers compensation.

This information is for general purposes only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 08 8443 4888 or email [email protected]. We offer a free half hour first interview.