Workers compensation legal requirements

What Happens if you have a work related illness or injury at work?

The primary goal of WHS legislation is the prevention of work-related illness and injury. This goal is reflected in WHS legislation. In the event of failure to prevent illness and injury then workers compensation legislation provides for the rehabilitation of workers and compensation for losses arising from the illness or injury. Rehabilitation and workers’ compensation are covered in each state and territory under workers compensation acts. Rehabilitation focuses on returning a worker to their pre-illness or injury status as soon as possible. This involves covering the costs and providing for medical and any other treatments (e.g. physiotherapy, drugs, etc.) and helping the worker to return to their former duties or find alternative duties if this is not possible. Compensation provides for loss of income due to inability to work and may include some financial payment related to disability incurred and/or pain and suffering.

If you are sick or injured at work you should report immediately to your supervisor or first aid officer. The supervisor or first aid officer will organise the treatment you need for the illness or injury.

If you have a work related injury and cannot work for a period then you may be entitled to workers compensation. In this case you should talk with your supervisor or go to the human resources (HR) department and ask for a workers compensation claim form. You will also need a medical certificate from a medical practitioner. Your supervisor or the HR department can help you fill out the form and explain the process of lodging a claim. You may also need assistance to return to work. For example your doctor may advise you to return to work initially on a part-time basis and build the time you work gradually until you are fully fit to resume fulltime work. This process is called rehabilitation.

Workers compensation is set out in workers compensation laws in each state and territory of Australia. It is compulsory for employers to hold workers compensation insurance to provide coverage for their employees in the event of a work related illness or injury. Insurance coverage is provided irrespective of the cause of the illness or injury or of the contribution of the worker to the accident.

Benefits under workers compensation legislation are based on the nature of the injury and the average wage paid to the employee. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the accident or illness, entitlements for sick or injured workers may include:

  • the cost of medical treatment
  • related expenses such as pharmaceutical and pathology tests
  • hospital costs
  • replacing lost personal effects damaged in the accident
  • weekly payments to compensate for lost wages
  • a lump sum payment to compensate for permanent disability
  • payment to compensate for pain and suffering
  • payment for permanent disfigurement
  • rehabilitation/return to work costs.

What assistance is given to return to work after a work related injury?

If you have a work related injury and your doctor advises that you are unfit for normal duties and need assistance to help you to return to your normal work then you are entitled to rehabilitation in the form of a return to work program.

The rehabilitation sections of the relevant state workers compensation act stipulate that employers must provide rehabilitation services to employees who are off work or not fully fit for their normal duties, as a result of a workplace related event.

To do this, your workplace is required under the legislation to have:

  • a policy and procedures for rehabilitating workers
  • a coordinator of the rehabilitation/return to work program in the workplace
  • access to the services of rehabilitation providers who can assist with the return to work program.

A work-related injury or illness may have a big impact on your life. Research has shown that getting back to work is important for your health and wellbeing. The earlier you start planning to return to work, the better your chances of getting back sooner.

You may not have to wait until you are 100 per cent recovered to return to work. It’s important to try to keep positive and motivated – focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Whether it’s on reduced hours in your regular job or on modified or alternative duties, getting back to work is part of your rehabilitation. Talk to your treating doctor about what will help you to get back to your pre-injury status. Take the medical certificate to your HR department. They will direct you to the Return to Work Coordinator. You can work with your Return to Work Coordinator and supervisor to plan your return to work program. Rehabilitation service providers may be involved if required. Rehabilitation service providers are external experts with technical expertise in returning injured workers to work. Return to work is a team effort and communication between everyone involved in your return to work is essential.