Unions have hailed Tasmania becoming the first jurisdiction to legislate to make it easier for public servants to make a claim for post traumatic stress disorder.
The government rejected a recommendation from a review that it not amend the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to include a presumptive provision for PTSD for public sector workers.
It mans when workers make a claim following a diagnosis of work-related trauma PTSD the default presumption is that the cause is work-related.
Minister for Building Guy Barnett said it was “the right thing to do to support our first responders, our correctional officers and other public service workers suffering from PTSD.”
We know that emergency service workers continue to put their lives at risk to assist the community every day. They will be able to get the help they need and deserve.Police Commissioner Darren Hine
“It will remove a potential source of stress for those who are suffering with PTSD, and highlight the importance of helping people return to meaningful work,” Mr Barnett said.
“Claiming workers compensation can be a daunting, challenging or stressful process, particularly if the claim is mental health related.”
Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday described the decision as “fantastic” and said unions had led the campaign for the act to include a presumptive provision.
She paid tribute to the “bravery of union members who publicly shared their stories in pursuit of these reforms.”
“First responders, and in particular, paramedics, have candidly shared their experiences in the public domain to help make these changes happen,” Ms Munday said.
“They have not only talked openly about what it’s like to suffer from PTSD but also the difficulties they have faced in navigating an often adversarial system, the stigma that comes with being diagnosed with this illness and the struggle to get back to work.
“These reforms will be so important in breaking down that stigma and providing real support to workers with PTSD”.
Police Association acting secretary Gavin Cashion said he hoped the legislation would recognise those currently suffering PTSD.
“Police officers see the very worst of humanity and the cumulative effect this can have on individuals is significant,” he said.
“We hope this proactive approach to acknowledging the effects of PTSD will also include recognition of those currently suffering with PTSD and more importantly those who have yet to have their claims accepted.”
Police Commissioner Darren Hine said the legislation would be “world leading.”
“We know that emergency service workers continue to put their lives at risk to assist the community every day,” Commissioner Hine said.
“They will be able to get the help they need and deserve.”
Health and Community Services Union secretary Tim Jacobson also applauded the Hodgman Government for its vision.
“This legislation will mean so much to workers who, while already suffering mental injury as a direct result of their work, have historically been further injured through the adversarial workers compensation process,” Mr Jacobson said.
“It’s hard to truly convey the gratitude our members will have for the bold step taken by the Tasmanian Government but, as a few words can often say a lot, we simply say ‘thank you’.”
Mr Barnett said Tasmania’s workers compensation system already had a very high acceptance rate for PTSD related claims, and the legislative changes would make it easier for public servants suffering from PTSD to make a claim.
“Our emergency first responders are among those that Tasmanians turn to in times of traumatic events, tragedy, or need,” he said.
“They can often witness confronting and serious incidents, which have long-lasting impacts on their mental health.”
All Government Business Enterprises and State-owned Companies will also be requested to adopt the presumption in administering and determining any PTSD claims made by their workers.
The review made 11 recommendations including that the Act not contain a presumptive provision.