Businesses have been put on notice across Queensland to make sure they are adequately insured for injuries to workers, after WorkCover discovered that 31 per cent of businesses did not have appropriate insurance cover in place, writes Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Associate Henry Garrett.
In Queensland it is compulsory for all employers besides self-insurers to take out workers’ compensation insurance with WorkCover Queensland. Yet, the government-owned body visited 205 businesses across south-east Queensland and Cairns in October 2022 and found that 31 per cent did not have appropriate policies in place for those that are injured at work or who fall ill because of their work.
Workers’ compensation can cover lost wages, medical expenses, hospital fees, rehabilitation costs and travel expenses for treatment. It can also include lump sum payments and death benefits or funeral expenses in workplace fatalities.
WorkCover has fired a warning shot to those businesses who are inadequately covered, citing significant financial penalties for lawbreakers. The businesses found to be inadequately insured were predominately in the retail, food service, construction, or agriculture sectors.
This is extremely concerning given that these sectors are ranked some of the most dangerous industries to work in Australia. According to preliminary data from Safe Work Australia, as at 8, December 2022, 32 agriculture workers had lost their lives in 2022, and 16 workers lost their lives in the construction sector.
WorkCover said that “ignorance is not a defence” and any businesses that turn a blind eye to their legal obligations would be “held to account.”
Part and parcel with the reprimand is a reminder to employees of their own rights when they experience a physical or psychological injury at work, particularly those employed by uninsured companies.
Can an injured worker make a claim when their employer is uninsured? Yes!
Anyone who falls under the meaning of worker in Queensland is eligible to receive workers compensation, even those who work for businesses that have let their policies lapse or that have failed to take them out in the first place. It doesn’t matter how long an employee has worked at their workplace, there is recourse for any worker that has an accident or suffers an injury while at work, or on their journey to or from work.
The definition for worker is set out in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, with the main exceptions to compulsory cover being sole traders, directors or partners of their own business, as well as trustees of a Trust. Such individuals can take out accident cover if they wish, but it’s not legally mandated as is the case for most businesses.
Injured workers may be tempted by their bosses to forego their right to claim through WorkCover and accept a private settlement instead. These private settlements put the injured worker at great risk of under settling their claim and usually without sufficient medical evidence to properly investigate their injuries.
Some employers may even try to shut down a conversation altogether about the claim, by telling an injured worker they are uninsured. This is wrong, as the injured worker can still make a claim, but the employer will be held personally liable by WorkCover once the claim has settled.
The body says that any business that employs even one worker in Queensland without adequate insurance is breaking the law. They are also exposing themselves to large financial penalties, depending on the size of the claim.
Different types of insurance
WorkCover offers several different types of insurance, with each policy depending on the type of workers employed and the way a business is run:
- Accident insurance
- Household worker insurer
- Workplace personal injury insurance
- Volunteer insurance, and
- Work experience insurance
In Queensland, accident insurance is a must, unless the employer is self-insured, in which instance they manage their own claims. Most Queensland businesses, 95 per cent according to the government-owned body’s website, are insured by WorkCover.
If a worker is injured on the job, they can either claim a Statutory “no fault” Benefits Claim, or a Common Law Claim, also known as a “negligence” or “fault-based” claim.
Accident insurance covers several different types of injuries, including not only physical injuries but also psychological or psychiatric injuries. Injuries that are built up over time or have a delayed onset, like industrial deafness or Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis, or a pre-existing condition that is aggravated, are also covered.
WorkCover says that an employee injured at work can claim workers compensation no matter who or what causes an injury. A claim can still be made for example when an employee’s own actions may have caused or contributed to the injury, or when the injury may partially stem from a pre-existing condition. Compensation can also be available even when the right safety requirements were in place at the site of work.
Understanding your rights when injured at work
Knowing what you’re entitled to after suffering a physical or psychological injury at work is key to accessing the treatment you need and compensation you deserve, kickstarting your journey of recovery and getting back to work.
As a leading Compensation Law firm, Attwood Marshall Lawyers is here to help you with your workers’ compensation claim. We understand that dealing with insurance companies can be an overwhelming experience. We can take care of your claim and all negotiations with the insurer so that you can focus on what’s important, your recovery.
If your WorkCover claim is rejected, we can also assist you in having the decision reviewed, guiding you through the process and supporting you every step of the way.
To find out what your options are, contact our Compensation Law Department on 1800 621 071 any time.