Even at the best of times, workplaces can often become a source of stress for employees. How this is managed by employers can often significantly impact whether general stress turns into a more serious condition.
Employees in Queensland are protected generally by the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld).
Historically, some psychological claims have been more difficult to successfully pursue due to changing definitions in the legislation as lawmakers (consecutive State Governments) wrestle with finding a balance that supports workers without being unfairly onerous on employers.
Changes courtesy of the Workers Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) have recently shifted this balance once again, and pleasingly in favour of workers!
This legislation amends existing workers’ compensation legislation in Queensland. We have summarised some of the changes below, with the first stage of amendments commencing on 30 October 2019.
Definition of psychological injury
The definition of psychological injury now requires a worker’s employment to be ‘a’ significant contributing factor to the injury, rather than ‘the major’ significant factor. This subtle change of wording represents a major relaxation of the test for injured employees to meet now for their psychological claims to be successful.
Enhanced psychological support
Workers’ compensation insurers are now required to take all reasonable steps to provide support services, including general practitioner appointments, counselling or psychology sessions, psychiatry appointments and/or medication, to suffering workers while the claim is being determined. Previously, an insurer was not under any obligation to provide any assistance until the claim had been accepted.
Insurer discretion to waive time limit
Insurer’s now have the discretion to accept claims lodged outside the required six-month time limit to ensure workers, who have attempted to manage their injury at work are not disadvantaged.
These changes apply to injuries sustained from 30 October 2019.
The second stage commenced just last month, on 1 July 2020 with increased accountability for employers to better manage employees, and additional support for other vulnerable workers-
Return to work co-ordinator details
Employers are now required to provide details of their rehabilitation and return to work co-ordinators to their insurer, including details of the co-ordinators qualifications to perform the role.
Workers’ compensation coverage for unpaid interns
Workers’ compensation benefits are now extended to cover unpaid interns who perform work without payment of wages, to gain practical experience.
The full detail of the changes are explained on WorkCover Queensland’s website and the Act and explanatory notes are available on the Queensland legislation website.