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Depressed workers: what should an employer do?

Understand your obligations for employees with depression?
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Depressed workers: what should an employer do?

Depressed workers: what should an employer do?

16 March 2020

What are an employer's rights and obligations regarding employees who are being treated for depression?

Our Workplace Advice Line recently received this question from a Workplace Assured subscriber.

Q We have two employees who we know are presently being medicated and treated for depression.
Is there potential for this to become an extended personal leave issue or a protracted workers compensation claim?

What are our rights and obligations as the employer, and what remedies are available to us?

A Such situations are usually complex from a causation angle and treatment angle.

In broad terms employers are liable for work-related injuries and illnesses. If there is a work-related aspect then the situation could develop into a workers compensation claim or, in extreme cases, a common law damages claim. If the employer believes there is a prospect of a workers compensation claim being made then it should inform their workers compensation insurer and seek guidance.

We obviously cannot express an opinion on the nature of the illness or the prospect of personal leave. The actual medical condition – properly diagnosed – would be critical in answering such questions.

Employers in this situation can ask an employee if he/she would like to discuss the employer’s role in assisting him/her. The employer should be careful not to insist on this as the employee may prefer to keep matters private.

If the employee wants changes made to their work situation the employer can consider what is reasonable in the circumstances; and could call for professional guidance in relation to suggested changes.

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