Workers’ compensation hit the headlines when a former reality TV contestant was successful in a workers’ compensation claim she brought against The Seven Network in the NSW Workers Compensation Commission. The Arbitrator found that the applicant was a deemed worker and had suffered a psychological injury after being portrayed as a villain on the show, House Rules.
This shines a light on the need for all organisations to understand what workers’ compensation is, what are their obligations and the best way to support a worker who suffers an illness or injury at work.
This is the first article in a three-part series that explores how workers’ compensation works and the obligations on both employees and employers when a claim is made. The series primarily focuses on workers’ compensation in New South Wales.
“It's important incidents are notified within 48 hours”
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a statutory form of insurance. It's a compulsory insurance for most employers in every state and territory in Australia. It can provide protection to workers if they suffer a work-related injury or a disease. Injured workers may be entitled to receive compensation for lost wages, medical treatment and return to work assistance.
In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, insurers operate as scheme agents on behalf of a government authority.
The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is the NSW government agency responsible for regulating workers’ compensation in New South Wales. There are three types of workers’ compensation insurers in New South Wales – Insurance & Care NSW (icare), self insurers and specialised insurers.
In NSW, workers’ compensation is run by icare, a state government agency. icare provides insurance and care services to statutory authorities and people with injuries under various compensation schemes. It takes premiums from employers and acts for SIRA. Currently Employers Mutual New South Wales runs icare’s claims, alongside insurers Allianz and GIO.
In NSW, even though employers have to hold a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy, if they don't have one in place, injured workers can still make a claim through the Uninsured Liability Indemnity Scheme, which is managed by icare.
The SIRA website contains useful guides for employers about their role, return to work programs, suitable duties for injured workers when they return to work, how employers can assist in the recovery process and what to do in the event of a dispute. There is also a section on the website to assist small businesses as to how to manage a workers’ compensation claim.
Each state has a different approach to workers’ compensation. See the list below for organisations where you can find out about how workers’ compensation operates in your state or territory:
- In Victoria, go to WorkSafe Victoria.
- In South Australia, go to ReturnToWorkSA.
- In Western Australia, go to WorkCover WA
- In Tasmania, go to WorkSafe Tasmania.
- In Queensland, go to WorkCover Queensland.
- In the Northern Territory, go to NT WorkSafe.
- In the ACT, go to Access Canberra.
What happens if you have a claim?
In New South Wales, employers need to notify the workers’ compensation insurer within 48 hours of becoming aware of a work-related injury or an illness.
After receiving notification of an injury or illness, the employer must ensure the injured worker gets the right care such as first aid.
Businesses must also maintain a register of injuries and make sure injuries are recorded in the register. They must also make regular contact with the injured worker and support them by assisting in their recovery and return to work. The icare website has tools employers can use to assist with the claims process.
If an employer doesn't report a work-related injury within five days of becoming aware of it, it may have to pay a claims excess payment, which is equivalent to one week of the worker's weekly payment. So it's important incidents are notified within 48 hours.
In NSW, serious injuries (for example, when a worker is crushed on a work site by falling equipment or building structures) are known as ‘notifiable incidents’, and must be notified to Safe Work NSW. Safe Work will investigate the incident which in some circumstances may result in a prosecution.
An employee who has suffered a serious injury where the employer has been negligent can bring a civil claim against the employer. In these circumstances, the worker is entitled to make a separate claim for past and future loss of wages and superannuation, if it’s established the employer’s negligence caused the injury.
In the next article, we’ll explore what happens once a claim has been notified.
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