WORDS BY GREG SPINDA, LAWYER, AND SEAN SMITH, SOLICITOR, CAREW LAWYERS – for Australian Car Mechanic
“Failing to tell WorkCover is a serious offence and you can be criminally prosecuted for fraud.”
This article will address some very common questions that come up when either yourself, or your employees, return to work whilst on WorkCover.
It is important to note from the beginning that whilst you are in receipt of WorkCover benefits, that you inform WorkCover of any work you do. This includes self-employed work, cash jobs for mates or family or even volunteer work.
Failing to tell WorkCover is a serious offence and you can be criminally prosecuted for fraud, your benefits from WorkCover could stop, WorkCover may recover all the money they paid to you and it can have serious negative effects on any potential personal injury claim you may start.
I was injured at work but I’m ready to go back, what do I do?
The first thing you must do is obtain clearance from your doctor, and in some cases your specialist, to return to work. If your doctor does not clear you to return to work, WorkCover will not allow you to return to work. This is to avoid you re-injuring yourself.
There are two types of clearances your doctor can give you, full clearance or suitable duties clearance. Full clearance means that your doctor is happy for you to return to your pre-injury duties, with no restrictions. Suitable Duties means that your doctor has placed certain restrictions on what you can and can’t do. This is the usual step when you first return to work. The idea being that you gradually increase your work and ease back into your pre-injury employment. These restrictions from your doctor may include shorter working weeks, shorter working hours or restrictions on the type of work you can do.
Once you have your doctor’s clearance, you should communicate that with WorkCover and send to them your clearance. WorkCover will then communicate with your employer.If you have received a Suitable Duties clearance, WorkCover will contact your employer to determine whether they have any duties available that will match the restrictions that your doctor has placed on you. If your employer has suitable duties available, WorkCover will advise you when you can return to work.
If your employer does not have suitable duties available for you, WorkCover will attempt to locate a host employer for you. A host employer is essentially a workplace that has an agreement with WorkCover to assist injured people in returning to work for the purpose of doing their Suitable Duties.
This is not a new employer or a new job for you. It is only a temporary solution to help you work your strength back up to try to return to your pre-injury work. You will continue to receive your weekly benefits from WorkCover, despite working for a temporary new employer. After gradually increasing your duties, you may then be able to return to your pre-injury employer.
I have gone back to work on Suitable Duties but am suffering from pain, what should I do?
If your doctor has provided you with a clearance, you have a duty to attempt a return to work with those restrictions. If you do not, WorkCover may stop paying you for failing to cooperate.
However, if you do return to work and experience pain or find you are unable to continue work, you must immediately notify your employer and WorkCover. You must then attend your doctor and explain to your doctor what you experienced and why you felt pain or couldn’t continue with the Suitable Duties. Your doctor may need to adjust the Duties until they get the right mix.
I have re-injured myself at work, what should I do?
You should immediately notify your employer and WorkCover. This is incredibly important to ensure you are covered by WorkCover, you get the right treatment quickly and if you wish to commence a personal injury claim.
After you notify WorkCover, you should attend your doctor to have them examine the injury and determine the best course of treatment. Depending on the extent of the aggravation, your doctor may certify you unable to work for a period of time.
My employee is returning from leave following an injury, what do I do?
As an employer, you should keep in contact with WorkCover, particularly if your employee is returning to work. Check with WorkCover to find out what restrictions have been placed on the employee.
It is a good idea to keep a copy of the Suitable Duties Plan and perhaps discussing this with the employee’s direct supervisor. You should ensure that any work you have them do complies with their Suitable Duties Plan. If it is above and beyond what they have been cleared for, they are not required to perform the work and you may put them at risk of re-injury.
The Suitable Duties Plan is helpful for employers too, because it is the best chance of having the employee return to work and minimise the prospect of a personal injury claim once WorkCover benefits are stopped.
If the employee notifies you that the work you are having them do is aggravating their injuries and symptoms, have them stop the work and contact WorkCover. They will work with you and the doctor to adjust the Suitable Duties Plan.
For further information, the WorkCover Queensland website, www.worksafe.qld.gov.au, is very helpful. We would also suggest getting legal advice about your rights.
For more information visit www.carewlawyers.com.au