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Common work injury and workers’ compensation questions

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What are my options for compensation if injured at or because of work?

If you’re injured or become ill because of work, there are a few safety nets available to you. The first is workers’ compensation, or WorkCover.

Most companies are required to take out WorkCover insurance which helps compensate injured workers with medical expenses, weekly wage replacement and potentially lump sum compensation if the injury or illness was someone else’s fault.

Other options may include a total and permanent disability claim through your superannuation or income protection.

Read more things you should know about WorkCover claims in Queensland and things to know about making a WorkCover claim in Victoria.

Also, more about understanding TPD insurance through your superannuation.

What do I do if my employer doesn’t want me to make a workers’ compensation claim?

If your employer discourages or threatens you if you ask to make a workers’ compensation claim, don’t panic – your employer cannot stop you.

In fact, you don’t even need your employer’s permission or help to lodge a claim, you can do it yourself through your state’s WorkCover scheme online. Though you may be nervous about losing your job, rest assured it’s illegal for your boss to fire you for this reason.

Read more about how to report workplace incidents and unsafe practices.

Can I get fired for making a workers’ compensation claim? Can I get fired while on WorkCover?

No. Your boss cannot fire you as a direct result of a work-related injury or workers’ compensation claim, at least for a period of 12 months after.

The Fair Work Act provides employees with the right to lodge a WorkCover claim and protects employees from adverse reactions by the employer including dismissal, discrimination, or any acts to the employee’s detriment.

However, if you haven’t been able to return to work for a year, and there are no suitable light duties available, then you can legally be terminated.

Note: In Victoria, Employers have an obligation under WorkCover legislation to provide a worker with suitable or pre-injury employment for a total period of 52 weeks, to the extent that it is reasonable to do so. The obligation period starts when the employer received a worker’s Certificate of Capacity or claim for weekly payments.

Are contractors entitled to workers’ compensation?

Any employee considered a “worker” under workers’ compensation legislation is covered by WorkCover and entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim if injured or falls ill during or out of the course of their employment.

Contractors and subcontractors are usually considered “workers” if they are engaged to perform work on behalf of a business, most often under a “contract of service”.

Read more about are contractors entitled to workers’ compensation in Victoria.

Can I claim workers’ compensation if have a pre-existing injury?

It’s a common misconception that an injured worker with a pre-existing injury or disease can’t claim entitlements under the WorkCover scheme.

Fortunately, the mere presence of a pre-existing condition won’t necessarily prevent you from lodging a WorkCover claim or accessing various entitlements, though it may make your claim more complicated.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to prove your pre-existing injury is work-related, only that your work is a significant contributing factor to the “recurrence, aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation or deterioration” of the pre-existing condition.

Read more about the impacts of a pre-existing injury or condition on your claim.

How much weight can I legally lift at work?

There is no maximum weight for lifting set out in legislation. However, the National Code of Practice for Manual Handling suggests that more care is required when lifting weight above 16kgs, including providing mechanical assistance or team lifting arrangements to lower the risk of injury.

The heavier the weight, the more risk it carries so the level of risk should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It’s also important to note that workers can’t be forced to lift objects they don’t feel comfortable lifting.

Can I claim compensation for cancer I think was caused by work?

Depending on the circumstances, including the type of cancer and employment history, it is possible to make an occupational disease claim.

Many jobs such as firefighters, stonemasons, miners and other trades workers have been linked to higher risks of certain cancers including bladder cancer to lung cancer.

Most states of Australia have a list of deemed diseases, that is, diseases and cancers that are automatically deemed to have been caused by work.

And more often than not, you don’t have to prove definitively that your cancer was caused by employment, only that the nature of your employment significantly increased the risk of you developing the cancer than had you not been employed in a job of that nature.

Read more about tradies at risk of developing diseases and understanding occupational cancer risks.

Does WorkCover cover travel to and from, or for, work?

Referred to as a “journey claim”, the legislation surrounding this is different in Queensland and Victoria. In Queensland, a journey claim generally covers trips between:

  • Your home and your place of work
  • Your workplace and any other place you’re required to be for work
  • Two places of employment (i.e., one job to another)

This means, in Queensland, if you suffer an injury while travelling for work, or even to and from work, you generally are able to claim WorkCover – as long as you did not make a significant detour from your usual route, or break any road rules.

Whereas in Victoria, you cannot claim workers’ compensation for travel between your home and your work – you can only claim WorkCover in this situation if you were driving for the purposes of work.  Though you may be able to make a TAC claim if involved in a car or transport accident on the way to or from work.

Read more about being injured travelling to and from, and for, work in Queensland here.

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

Employers are legally required to have workers’ compensation insurance for all workers, so no matter what, you’re protected if injured or ill on the job.

However, if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance and you’re injured, you may still claim as usual from WorkCover. Usually, the WorkCover Agent will pay the compensation and recover it from the employer along with a penalty percentage and the unpaid premiums.