Workplace injuries can be a challenging time for both the victim and their family. Whilst there are numerous challenges associated with workplace injury, there are fortunately various avenues to help overcome these challenges. Seeking advice from a legal professional can help ensure that your rights following a workplace injury are upheld and protected, and to ensure that your employer is fulfilling their required legal obligations.
Perhaps the greatest worry for injured workers is overcoming the financial challenges of being unable to immediately return to work, following a workplace injury. Fortunately, Safe Work Australia is a national policy that exists to not only improve the health and safety of workers, but also to ensure that adequate compensation arrangements exist and are readily accessible across Australia for injured workers. Workers compensation agencies (such as WorkSafe in Victoria) are responsible for providing this compensation to eligible victims of work related injuries or illnesses.
If you lose income or require treatment because of your injury, you may be eligible to claim compensation. This may be in the form of weekly payments, based on your pre-injury average weekly earnings. Your employer will be responsible for paying your weekly payments, once they have been provided by you with a valid Certificate of Capacity. This is simply a statement made by your doctor confirming your current incapacity to perform certain roles, or to currently perform your position to any extent. Receiving adequate compensation for lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation treatment and travelling expenses can help overcome the financial challenges associated with workplace injury.
If your injury was a result of negligence in the workplace, you may be eligible to sue your employer for damages.The purpose of a damages claim is to compensate for the loss, harm or injury suffered.
It is important to note however, that a work injury damages settlement cancels all further entitlements to workers compensation benefits including weekly payments, medical, hospital and rehabilitation expenses. Therefore, before deciding to sue your employer, it is important to receive advice from an experienced compensation lawyer to determine which avenue will benefit you greater financially.
Keep your employer informed
Your injury or illness must be recorded in your workplace’s register of injuries within 30 days of you first becoming aware of it. This can be done by you, or someone on your behalf. Under Australian law, your employer must retain your pre-injury position for one year from the day you are entitled to receive weekly compensation payments. Keeping your employer informed in the rehabilitation process and ensuring open communication is an important part of the journey back to work if you do wish to retain your old position.
Returning to work
Returning to work following a workplace injury can be a daunting process, whether it be in a new position or the same position you held prior to the injury. Your employer has an obligation to:
- support your return to work, consistent with your capacity post-injury
- assess suitable employment options for your return to work
- provide you with clear, accurate and current details of the return to work arrangements to be implemented.
- consider reasonable workplace support, including any necessary aids or modifications to the work site.
- assist you in meeting your return to work obligations
Understanding your rights and your employer’s obligations is an important way of overcoming the challenges of returning to work. Consultation and advice from a legal professional can ensure that your employer has fulfilled all of their obligations in regards to supporting your return to work. Maintaining communication with your employer can also ensure that the return to work arrangements to be implemented are in fact consistent with your level of capacity post-injury.