7 September 2016

Is there a Hidden Agenda Behind Changes to WorkCover Medical Certificates

Shireen Hazlett
Shireen Hazlett Compensation Lawyer

Workers injured during the course of their employment, whose employers are insured under the Queensland WorkCover Scheme, are entitled to claim statutory benefits which include weekly benefits and coverage of medical and rehabilitation expenses.

From 1 July 2016, an injured worker’s treating medical practitioner must complete a work capacity certificate which requires the doctor to provide information regarding the injured worker’s capacity for work, medical management plan and rehabilitation return to work plan.

This new certificate encourages medical practitioners to focus on what an injured worker can do rather than what they can’t.

It also prompts medical practitioners to focus on identifying suitable duties to have the worker recover at their work, rather than their home.

This is in contrast to the superseded medical certificate which largely focused on the injured worker’s restrictions and limitations at work.

Medical practitioners are now encouraged to instruct injured workers to:

  • Stay active and, if possible, at work to restore function and decrease disability or long periods of time off work;
  • Avoid long periods of time off work;
  • Set treatment goals that focus on what they can do, not what they can’t;
  • Self-manage their symptoms;
  • Identify suitable duties and possible workplace adjustments.

An early return to work will have positive impacts for the insurer and the employer as shorter claims will reduce workers’ compensation costs and an employer’s premium.

The impact on the worker however remains to be seen.

The implementation of capacity certificates that are focused on functional capacity and returning to work will bring Queensland in line with recent changes made in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The concern is that treating doctors may feel pressured to certify workers to enter into early return to work plans prematurely when the better option for some workers would be to focus on their treatment and rehabilitation and to recover at home.

Doctors may be pressured to give an opinion regarding capacity for work and a work plan which they are not qualified to give and which would be better given by an occupational therapist or some other health professional.

On too many occasions, we have seen highly skilled tradesmen, who we have been representing in workplace injury claims,  being condemned to completing mind destroying menial tasks in the company office.

It is hoped that treating doctors stand up to, in appropriate cases, the pressure to force workers into soul destroying return to work programs which are of no rehabilitative benefit.

By 1 January 2017, the work capacity certificate will be the only recognised medical certificate by Queensland workers’ compensation insurers.

If you have any questions regarding a WorkCover claim, please contact us today.



Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).

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