*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in Western Australia.

The purpose of the workers’ compensation system is to ensure that an employee who suffers from an injury at work is compensated for loss the of income (or a percentage of their income), medical care and rehabilitation services with the aim of returning the employee to their pre-injury capacity and thus allowing them to return to work.

The system is designed to assist the employee to regain their capacity for work however, this does not extend to ensuring that at the end of the workers’ compensation claim the injured employee has a job to return to.  Subject to interpretation, Section 84AA of the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (“the Act”) provides some security whereby if the employee can return to their pre-injury employment within 12 months from the date of which the claim was accepted, the employer should provide them with their pre-injury position provided it still exists.

The workers’ compensation system is a short term solution and on average allows for approximately two to three years of cover for loss of income.  In circumstances where an employee has suffered a significant injury and is unfit for work for the foreseeable future it may be possible for the employee to apply for an extension of wage entitlements.  Section 217 of the Act allows for an employee to apply for an extension of wages with the insurer.  To do so an employee must be able to prove the following:

  1. That he or she is unfit for any work for the foreseeable future, this must be supported by a medico legal report from an Approved Medical Specialist; and
  2. That they require ongoing income assistance. A means test “Form 101 – Statement of Social and Financial Circumstances” must be completed.

However, prior to making an application for an extension of wages it is recommended that an employee seeks legal assistance in order to negotiate settlement of their claim and obtain a lump sum payout or pursue the matter to Arbitration at WorkCover WA. It is important to note that a Section 217 application and any funding awarded pursuant to this section will not compensate the employee for a Permanent Impartment under Schedule II of the Act.

While a Section 217 application is available to any employee, it is often strongly opposed  by the insurer and therefore an employee should seek legal advice before commencing an application.