On Wednesday 30 October 2019 the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Legislation Amendment Act 2019 received Assent.
The Act provides new provisions for lodging and acceptance of certain claims, additional support services and rehabilitation for some injured workers and further obligations on employers.
The changes can be briefly summarised as follows:
- The existing 6 month time frame to lodge a workers’ compensation claim within 6 months of an injury or entitlement to seek compensation (usually the date upon which a worker is assessed by a doctor) continues; however, in addition to the existing exceptions, an insurer may now also waive the time limit for a worker who lodges a claim within 20 business days of being (medically) certified with an incapacity – applies to applications for compensation made after 30 October 2019;
- For psychiatric or psychological injuries the requirement that employment be the major significant contributing factor has now reverted to the previous definition that employment need only be a significant contributing factor to the injury. This reverts to the previous position and aligns with the definition for physical injuries in section 32. Hence employment does not need to be the only, nor the major significant contributing factor for a psychiatric or psychological injury to be accepted. The exclusionary provisions under section 32(5) for reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way remain for those injuries – applies to all injuries sustained on or after 30 October 2019;
- New provisions require insurers to provide support for workers’ with psychiatric or psychological injuries during claim determination, i.e. whilst a decision is being made whether the claim is to be accepted or rejected – applies to all injuries sustained on or after 30 October 2019;
- Clearer obligations and responsibilities for insurers with respect to rehabilitation and return to work programs for injured workers – applies to all workers who cease receiving workers’ compensation after 30 October 2019;
- Additional requirements on employers to provide details of their rehabilitation and return to work coordinator within 12 months of appointment and within 12 months of a change in coordinator details – commences 1 July 2020;
- Revised obligations for employers to provide rehabilitation to an injured worker and cooperate with the workers’ compensation insurer to facilitate appropriate rehabilitation – commenced 30 October 2019;
- Self-insured employers (i.e. those not insured by WorkCover Queensland) are no longer exempt from reporting workplace injuries, payments made to workers and are now required to pay an excess for claims by injured workers – applies to all injuries sustained on or after 1 July 2020;
- Expressions of regret and apologies provided following a workplace injury are exempt from consideration in any assessment of liability in a civil action brought for an injury under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), i.e. in any common law claim for a workplace injury or death under the Queensland workers’ compensation legislation – commenced 30 October 2019 but note this does not apply to prosecutions under the Work Health & Safety Act 2011 (Qld) or presumably under any corresponding law in another state involving a Queensland employee;
- Interns will soon be considered workers and therefore covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation policy. There are specific exclusions for paid interns, certain volunteers, students on work experience or vocational placement etc – commences on 1 July 2020;
- Applying for workers’ compensation (under section 132) no longer requires strict compliance for the application form or medical certificate and substantial compliance is now sufficient – commenced on 30 October 2019;
- A workers’ compensation insurer may only review an entitlement to compensation for an accepted claim if it considers the claimant’s entitlement to compensation under the Act has changed – commenced on 30 October 2019;
- An ‘authorised person’ can require information from any claimant, employer or insurer in respect of any contravention against the act under section 532D – commenced on 30 October 2019;
- There is no longer a requirement for an injured worker to provide evidence that their work-related injury will cause their death within 2 years to qualify for lump-sum compensation for the terminal illness. The worker must now prove that their work-related injury is expected to cause their death, regardless of the timeframe. This provision will particularly assist those workers with terminal cancers not expected to cause their death within 2 years and those with progressive illness which will worsen and cause their death such as progressive asbestosis and coal miners’ pneumoconiosis – applies to all injuries sustained on or after 31 January 2015.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).