Are you suffering from work-related stress or a stress-related illness and 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 and psychological problems. It is important to understand your rights to stress leave entitlements and workers’ compensation so that you do not also suffer economically. This is why seeking advice for experienced employment lawyers can be beneficial depending on your circumstance. 

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 full-time employees are entitled to 10 days annually of paid personal/carer’s leave. This includes sick leave which covers illnesses 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 workplace stress-related injury, you should notify your employer as soon as you can and make sure they record the incident in their register of injuries.

Your entitlement to compensation begins on the first day you are assessed by a doctor. 

The next step is to complete a claim form. The easiest way to do this is online through the WorkCover website.

Once you have lodged a worker’s compensation claim and your employer’s insurer accepts liability, the insurer must start making payments for weekly benefits and medical expenses as soon as possible. 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. 


Prolonged work-related stress can cause physiological and psychological problems.

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 at (03) 9600 2768 or email [email protected].