A workers compensation claim is something employers don’t want to have to deal with. At times they are approached with scepticism and viewed as arduous, which can make the situation unpleasant for everyone involved. It is important to recognise that workplace injuries, both physical and mental, occur and at times these can be very serious, even fatal. In our latest blog post we give employers some insights into understanding the ins and outs of workers compensation claims and how to manage a claim effectively and objectively.
What is workers compensation?
Unfortunately, workplace injuries do occur, which is why it is important there is a safety net for both employers and employees if an injury happens in the workplace. Employers in Australia are required by law to have insurance to cover themselves and employees in the event a worker injures themselves at work.
The circumstances around each claim are unique, however in the event of a workplace injury, workers compensation payments cover:
- Employee wages while they are unable to work
- Medical, hospital and/or rehabilitation treatment
- Lump sum payments in the case of a permanent impairment
- In the event of death, lump sum compensation payments can be made to dependents and payment made to cover funeral expenses
Managing a workers compensation claim
The following steps should be taken after an employer has been notified of a workplace injury:
- Notify relevant authorities – this includes advising the insurer within 3 days of being notified of the injury. In the event of a notifiable injury WorkSafe Tasmania (see links below for appropriate bodies in other States and Territories) must be advised of the incident.
- Provide the employee with the relevant paperwork – a Notice of Right to make Worker’s Compensation Claim must be provided to the employee within 14 days of receiving advise that the injury occurred. An employer must not hinder an employee from making a claim.
- Send the completed paperwork to the employer’s insurer – the completed workers compensation forms and relevant medical certificates must be sent to the employer’s insurer within 5 working days.
- Start making payments – upon receipt of a workers compensation claim (when it is deemed the employee is totally or partially incapacitated to work), the employer must start making payments of compensation regardless of whether the employer believes they are liable or not.
- Keep the employee up to date – within 28 working days the employer must write to the employee to let them know the status of their claim.
- Liability for the claim – the employer has 84 days to accept or dispute the claim. The claim will be assumed accepted if no action is taken within the 84 days.
Injury management and returning to work
The employee’s injury and return to work must be managed in a timely, safe, and sensitive manner. All employers and insurers should have an injury management program, which is made up of specific policies and procedures developed to manage injuries in the workplace.
Injury management must start as soon as a claim has been made. Part of the injury management process is establishing an appropriate plan to manage the injury and assist in facilitating the employees return to work (if appropriate). These plans include a thorough injury management plan and a return-to-work plan. An employer is required to retain the employee’s position for 12 months after the injury occurs, however, it may be the case that the employee isn’t able to return to their original position. In this instance the employer must find meaningful, alternative duties for the employee when they return to work.
There are often several key parties involved in the injury management process, these include:
- The employer, insurer, and employee
- Relevant medical practitioners
- Injury management coordinator (suitably qualified)
- Return to work coordinator (suitably qualified and applicable for employers with over 100 employees)
- Workplace rehabilitation provider (accredited provider)
Communication and support
Effective communication with employees on workers compensation is a key element of successfully managing the claim. This includes contacting the employee when they first make a claim, regularly checking in with them while they are off work and facilitating regular discussion as they get close to returning to work.
Returning to work from a workplace injury can be a difficult time for the employee. They will have good and bad days and it is important to recognise that this is normal. It is likely when they first return to work, they will need more support and flexibility in their working arrangements. Make sure regular conversations and check ins are had with the employee, particularly during the early days after they return to work.
Workers’ compensation requirements in Tasmania are governed by the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Regulations 2021. As an employer it is important to be familiar with your legislative responsibilities.
Each state and territory have a regulating body that can assist with workers compensation enquiries. These include:
- Australian Capital Territory: WorkSafe ACT
- New South Wales: State Insurance Regulatory Authority (NSW)
- Northern Territory: NT WorkSafe
- Norfolk Island: Norfolk Island Workers Compensation Agency
- Queensland: WorkCover Queensland
- South Australia: ReturnToWork SA
- Tasmania: WorkCover Tasmania
- Victoria: WorkSafe Victoria
- Western Australia: WorkCover WA
- Safe Work Australia