Sustaining an injury at work that affects your capacity to remain in employment can be devastating. It can affect you financially, emotionally and your life can take an unpredictable turn.
While the correct process to be followed by an employer when you sustain an injury at work is to help you lodge a WorkCover claim, your employer may not be willing to do so. Instead, your employer may offer to pay you privately for the cost of medical expenses for your work-related injury or even offer to pay your wages for the period you are unable to attend pre-injury work. This may sound tempting at first instance and you may even feel that your employer is assisting you through your difficult times however the reality is that this is unethical on the part of the employer.
If you decide to accept the payments made to you by the employer privately, you are essentially letting go of your entitlements under the WorkCover scheme and the protection this scheme gives to injured workers. You should also remember that in accepting such payments, the discretion to pay you is in the hands of your employer, and your payments can be terminated/refused by the employer at any time with no justification.
If you are someone who has sustained an injury at work or know of anyone who has sustained a work injury, make sure that a WorkCover claim is lodged in the right way. It is your right as an injured worker and will ensure that you are protected under the WorkCover scheme while you remain injured and will eventually assist you in gradual and safe return to work.
The following are some of the benefits of lodging a WorkCover claim:
• If you are unable to return to work due to a work-related injury, the WorkCover insurer will pay you 95% of your pre-injury average weekly earnings for the first 13 weeks and thereafter 80% of your pre-injury average weekly earnings for 130 weeks. Payments may continue beyond 130 weeks in limited circumstances.
• You will also be paid reasonable medical and like expenses which will include medical treatment for your injury and other related expenses such as household assistance and travel expenses.
• While you are focusing on recovery from your work-related injury, the WorkCover scheme will also ensure that your employment is protected as the employer cannot terminate you for the first 12 months of sustaining the work-related injury and if are not able to return to work.
• There will be proper return to work plans put in place for when you are able to return to work. The employer cannot put unnecessary pressure on you to immediately return to pre-injury duties.
• You may also be entitled to lump sum compensation.
What do I do if I sustain an injury at work?
• Immediately inform your employer that you have sustained an injury at work.
• Attend your General Practitioner and obtain a WorkCover Certificate/s of Capacity. Be clear about the circumstances of the injury to your doctor. Your employer cannot force you to attend a medical practitioner of their preference. It is your right to choose which doctor you wish to attend.
• Complete a Worker’s Injury Claim form and hand this over to your employer with your Certificate/s of Capacity. The employer will then forward this form to their worker’s compensation insurer within 10 calendar days. If the employer refuses and/or fails to do so, send this form/copy of the form directly to WorkSafe. You can also lodge the Worker’s Injury claim form immediately after the injury, prior to seeing your doctor and obtaining a Certificate of Capacity.
• Even if your employer does not have worker’s compensation in place, you should still hand this claim form to the employer as the employer is obligated to send it to WorkSafe within 5 days.
• Once your WorkCover claim is accepted, the worker’s compensation insurer will be in touch with you and you will be paid your weekly payments, including back payments and reasonable medical and like expenses.
Informing your employer about an injury sustained at work, can be a daunting process to many, due to fears about losing the job and mistreatment at work. However, you need to keep in mind that it is your legal right to lodge a WorkCover claim and your employer cannot put undue pressure on you not to do so or terminate your employment for doing so. If your employer insists on paying your medical expenses privately, talk to them and be persistent with your need to lodge a WorkCover claim.
If you are a worker who has sustained work related injury, and your employer is making things difficult for you or will not let you lodge a WorkCover claim, one of our expert lawyers at Zaparas Lawyers will be able to assist you navigate through the WorkCover system. At Zaparas Lawyers, we work on a no win no fee basis and you can contact one of our expert lawyers for an obligation free consultation on (03) 8527 0200.