NSW Workers Compensation – Explaining the Psychiatric Impairment Rating Scale (PIRS)

The NSW Workers Compensation Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment issued by SIRA dictates how the permanent impairment for psychiatric and psychological disorders are assessed.

For assessment of psychiatric disorders, the medical assessor is required to evaluate the behavioural consequences of the disorder based on six (6) categories, called the Psychiatric Impairment Rating Scale (PIRS). The 6 categories are:

  1. Self-care and personal hygiene
  2. Social and recreational activities
  3. Travel
  4. Social functioning (relationships)
  5. Concentration, persistence and pace
  6. Employability

Within each category the behavior is classified ranging from Class 1 to Class 5, with Class 1 being minor impairment and Class 5 being totally impaired. The Guidelines provides some examples of activities of each class. We will provide some real-life examples of the classes that our clients were classified at.

CASE STUDY 1

Our client was subjected to ongoing workplace bullying and harassment and as a result, sustained a psychiatric illness. Since then, she was unable to live by herself anymore and had to move back in with her parents to assist with meal preparations, personal hygiene and personal safety (she had self-harm thoughts). She became socially withdrawn and would only attend the odd social activity with the encourage of her family and only when accompanied by a family member. Every time she left the house, she would suffer from excessive anxiety and would require a support person (she had a support person to take her to the IME medical assessment). Her relationship with her family and friends remained intact, but she does suffer from the inability of forming new relationships. Our client found it hard to follow instructions or study and had to pause her TAFE studies. Finally, she has not returned to any form of employment since ceasing work and the prognosis is unclear at this moment.

Her behaviour was classified as follows:

  1. Self-care and personal hygiene – Class 4
  2. Social and recreational activities – Class 3
  3. Travel – Class 3
  4. Social functioning (relationships) – Class 1
  5. Concentration, persistence and pace – Class 3
  6. Employability – Class 5


Using the formula provided by the Guidelines, her level of permanent impairment was assessed at 26% WPI , entitling her to make a lump sum claim in the amount of $73,410 (with a date of injury 10 September 2021). This was in addition to the ongoing weekly benefits and treatment expenses.

CASE STUDY 2

Our client was physically assaulted by a co-worker during work, and as a result, she sustained PTSD and was unable to return to work. She continued to live alone however her mother had to come over to her house three times a week to assist her with the housework, prepare meals and look after her. She became socially withdrawn and would rarely participate in any social activities anymore as she was afraid of being around people. She can travel alone but only to the local shops, and places of familiarity. Her relationship with her partner had deteriorated and she separated from him due to the strain in their relationship. She finds it difficult to follow complex instructions and could only read simple books (such as recipes, but no longer novels). She has been unable to return to work and the prognosis is unclear at this moment.

Her behaviour was classified as follows:

  1. Self-care and personal hygiene – Class 3
  2. Social and recreational activities – Class 2
  3. Travel – Class 2
  4. Social functioning (relationships) – Class 4
  5. Concentration, persistence and pace – Class 2
  6. Employability – Class 5


Using the formula provided by the Guidelines, her level of permanent impairment was assessed at 22% WPI , entitling her to make a lump sum claim in the amount of $60,450 (with a date of injury 17 February 2022). This was in addition to the ongoing weekly benefits and treatment expenses.

This is a complex system and the above only provides a summary of how psychiatric disorder. If you believe you have sustained a primary psychiatric or psychological injury as a result of your employment or are unsure, we can provide you with some advice and help guide you through the entire process so that you are fairly compensated. The Head of our NSW team, Jessica Cheung is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law specializing in workplace injuries. If you believe you have sustained a work-related psychological injury and would like professional legal, reach out to Jessica and her team for a confidential discussion at no costs to you.

*The intention and purpose of this article is as to be used as a guide only.

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