Some thoughts on developments regarding the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric or psychological injury sustained in the workplace

Authors Adolph Landman, Moffat Ndou

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Judge of the High Court of South Africa and Judge of the Labour Appeal Court; Law Researcher in the High Court of South Africa (NW)
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 36 Issue 4, 2015, p. 2460 – 2473


Employers have the duty to provide a safe workplace or working environment for employees. As a general rule this includes the duty to prevent psychiatric or psychological harm to employees. The stigma attached to mental illness has discouraged those who suffer mental illness from seeking assistance or redress for psychiatric or psychological harm or injury. This stigma is eroding and worldwide such claims in the workplace are on the increase. The remedies available to employees in South Africa for such injuries and illness are explored in this contribution. Where an accident resulting in such injury arises within the course and scope of employment, COIDA is often applicable and provides compensation for such injuries and illnesses. Only if COIDA does not apply, may damages be claimed in terms of delict or contract. These statutory and common law remedies give rise to specific elements and challenges particularly as regards psychiatric or psychological harm. They are examined in the course of this contribution.