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What to do if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance

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Please note that this post was written for Queensland audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

You’ve injured yourself at work and before you get the chance to lodge a workers’ compensation claim. However, your boss tells you they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance.

What do you do? What are your options?

Workers’ compensation insurance exists to safeguard you as a worker (as well as your employer) from any injuries you may sustain at or because of work. It ensures that no matter who was at fault, how you got the injury (as long as it was work-related), or what level of coverage your employer has, you will be protected.

Does my employer have to hold workers’ compensation insurance?

Yes. It’s a legal requirement for all businesses and employers. Every worker in Queensland must be insured to cover associated wages and medical costs.

Significant penalties can apply if they don’t – especially if there is a claim for injury.

WorkCover Queensland recently uncovered dozens of uninsured and under insured businesses across the state. This is part of its year-round compliance activities.

Targeted site visits and audits were undertaken at 205 businesses in southeast Queensland and Cairns. 31 per cent were found to be operating without appropriate workers’ compensation insurance.

Businesses in the retail, food service, construction and agriculture industries were among the worst offenders.

Such findings are unacceptable in today’s day and age – every worker not only legally needs to be insured with the right level of coverage, but also deserves to be.

What do I do if my employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance?

While all employers are required by law to hold a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy, as seen above, it’s not always the case.

As a worker, there’s no need to worry – you are still protected by WorkCover should your employer fail you in this regard.

By this, we mean if you’re injured at or because of work and you meet the criteria for a WorkCover claim, you can still lodge a claim with WorkCover Queensland the same way.

The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act) contains provisions that entitle you to the same statutory and common law damages benefits as anyone else, whether it be medical expenses, weekly payments for lost wages or help with domestic care.

However, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure you’re not disadvantaged in any way.

Read more things you should know about WorkCover claims in Queensland.

What happens to my employer if they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance and I make a claim?

Not only does the Act point out what injured workers are entitled to, but it also contains provisions around employers failing to hold adequate insurance.

It outlines that if an employer fails to take out workers’ compensation insurance within five business days of employing a worker, they may be liable to pay a fine of over $30,000.

And it only gets worse if a claim is made against them.

Under Section 57 of the Act, WorkCover will recover any amounts paid to the worker in compensation including medical expenses, wages for time off work, and even common law damages from the employer directly.

This is usually in addition to a penalty equal to 50 per cent of the amounts paid, as well as the unpaid insurance premium.

These penalties may prompt your employer to offer to pay you privately for the cost of medical expenses or wages while you’re off work, which may sound tempting.

However, it’s important to be aware that this is highly unethical, and that by accepting any payments in such a form you are essentially waiving your right to claim common law damages if negligence played a part in your injury.

Related blogs to WorkCover in Queensland below:

Can casual workers claim compensation?

Are contractors covered by WorkCover compensation?

What to do if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance

Understanding common law claims in Queensland