A worker wins on the definition of ‘practicable’

27 October 2017

A police officer has sought workers’ compensation for stress and depression after being “targeted” by senior police officers, and wrongfully accused of criminal activities.

The worker believed he was improperly made the subject of disciplinary and criminal charges, and that the eventual vindication led him to develop the mental injuries resulting in total and/or partial incapacity for work at different times after October 2014.

The worker resigned in October 2014; only to have the proceedings against him dismissed in June 2015.

The employer – Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services’ denied all liability for the psychological injuries, arguing that “the actions of the senior officers were reasonable disciplinary or administrative actions” and that irrespective, by the worker failing to give notice of his injury “as soon as practicable”; pursuant to s 80(1) of the Northern Territory Return to Work Act (the Act), he was to be disentitled to compensation.

The employer submitted that “as soon as practicable” was to be coupled with an obligation, pursuant to s 182 of the Act, to give notice of the mental injury either before he voluntarily left his employment, or within six months of the injury occurring, which did not occur.

Judge John Neil of the Northern Territory Work Health Court heard evidence that the worker was unsure whether he could claim workers’ compensation once he had resigned, as he was still waiting for criminal charges to be finalised. Further, that the worker hoped his mental symptoms would resolve or improve in time and that compensation would not be necessary. Hence, the delay in his notice.

As such, Judge Neil held that the earliest date practicable for the worker to give the employer notice of his mental injury was shortly after the proceedings were dismissed in 2015, which he did, in the form of a complaint to the Office of Ombudsman. This being that the complaint was passed on to the relevant sections of the Northern Territory Police; constituting adequate notice and a requirement of compensation.