I received an e-mail from a reader who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a recent armed robbery at his place of work.
After the incident, in which one of his colleagues got shot, he continued to work as usual. However, in the weeks after the event, he continually experienced nightmares and a general feeling of fear.
Our reader decided to visit his doctor, who diagnosed him with PTSD. He was placed on medication and booked off for two months, during which time he underwent psychotherapy.
According to him, his boss now refuses to pay him for one of the two months that he was not working.
He would like to know what his rights are, especially since he has had costly medical expenses.
As the initial incident happened at the reader’s place of work while he was doing his job, his mental “injury” could constitute a valid injury on duty (IOD) claim.
During the mid-nineties, when no guidelines existed in this regard, there was an influx of claims for psychological injuries sustained at work.
The court findings – which started to crop up – validated these “injuries” as grounds to claim compensation from the Department of Labour.
As time went by, proper guidelines were developed to regulate such claims. For example, an employer has to state the exact date, time and place of an injury that was incurred by an employee.
In the case of PTSD, the above leaves vast grey areas as the condition may be compounded every time the employee has another traumatic experience.
Research shows that most people will at least experience some symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress following a traumatic event. These symptoms may include nightmares and fear as in our reader’s case, but also a loss of concentration among others.
Symptoms could take years to manifest and can last for several weeks. These can often be triggered by something that reminds the person of the original traumatic event – be it something they see, hear or smell.
Many misconceptions exist over IOD claims. The most common is that employers think they are liable to compensate employees out of their own pockets, which is not the case.
If an IOD case is correctly lodged with the Department of Labour and a valid claim exists, the compensation commissioner will pay up to 75% of an employee’s salary for the period that he/she is unable to perform his/her normal duties.
However, cases should be reported according to the correct, prescribed procedure within the specified 12-month time limit.
If not, the commissioner may refuse to pay out the claim.
Send your labour and other workplace related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booysen & Rossouw Attorneys in Port Elizabeth specialises in the fields of labour relations and injuries on duty. The firm also deals with all other legal matters.
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