Navigating the process of conciliation in VictoriaPublished on Posted on
Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.
After sustaining a work-related injury, the second most daunting experience is receiving a notice terminating your WorkCover claim entitlements.
Fortunately, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic) (‘the Act’), has set up an avenue for injured workers to dispute decisions through the medium of Conciliation.
Conciliation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which seeks to resolve disputes outside of the traditional courtroom setting. They generally issue outcomes quicker and are much more cost-effective when compared to taking a matter to court.
The Workplace Injury Commission
From 1 September 2022, the former Accident Compensation Conciliation Service is now known as The Workplace Injury Commission (‘WIC’). The role of the WIC is to provide a free service for injured workers to voice any adverse decisions or issues they are having with the authorised agent.
It’s a “round table” discussion between you and the WorkCover agent or self-insurer, with the Conciliator acting as an independent third party facilitating the discussions.
Common examples of complaints brought before the WIC are:
- Termination of medical and like services such as physiotherapy or psychological treatment
- A rejection of a request made by a treating medical practitioner such as surgery or injections
- Failure of the authorised agent or self-insurer to process weekly payments
- Failure of the authorised agent or self-insurer to respond to a request.
The process of conciliation
To apply for Conciliation, you need to fill in an Application for Conciliation, which sets out your details and details of the dispute.
If the request is in relation to disputing a decision of the authorised agent, you have 60 days from the date of the decision in which to apply for Conciliation. If more than 60 days has passed, you’ll have to provide valid reasoning as to why you were late to dispute the decision.
You must also provide copies of any relevant documents with the application. For example, if you have not been paid weekly payments by the authorised agent or self-insurer for a period of two weeks, you must also provide a copy of your Certificate of Capacity for this period.
You can email the application and relevant documents to email@example.com.
Who will represent me at conciliation?
As Conciliation is supposed to be less formal than going to court, you’ll find that there is rarely any “legalese” used.
References to the Act and case law are kept to a minimum as the process should be accessible to the average person. This is one of the reasons why lawyers are generally not allowed to attend Conciliation conferences.
Having said this, you do have the option of being assisted by either WorkCover Assist or Union Assist (if you’re a current and/or former union member).
The representative from WorkCover Assist or the Union will be in constant contact with your lawyer prior to and after any Conciliation conference.
What are the possible outcomes of conciliation?
The best-case scenario is that the decision or issue you are disputing gets resolved before or at the Conciliation conference.
If the dispute or issue does not resolve at Conciliation, the injured worker has two options:
- Request that the Conciliator issues a Genuine Dispute Certificate; or
- Request that the Conciliation refers the dispute to the Medical Panel.
Once a Certificate of Genuine Dispute is issued, the injured worker can refer their dispute to the Magistrates’ Court, where the matter will be determined by a Magistrate.
If your matter does not resolve at Conciliation, you should always seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer as to the best next step.