Compensation Lawyer – Return to Work Programs
For workers who are receiving compensation for work-related injuries, navigating a Return to Work Plan can be confusing.
This is often because of the number of stakeholders involved.
Insurers will usually arrange for a Return to Work Program to be prepared by a rehabilitation provider on their behalf in collaboration with the injured worker, the employer and the injured worker’s GP. They must also consult with the worker in preparing an injury management plan.
The rehabilitation provider’s role includes coordinating the worker’s recovery with their return to work, identifying suitable employment opportunities aligned with their current working capacity and preparing the Return to Work plan. The plan must also outline the procedure for a requested change in rehabilitation provider, and how the worker will be told of this opportunity.
The employer must not dismiss an injured worker due to injury within 6 months of their incapacity. They are required (among other obligations) to implement the Return to Work Program, co-operate with the insurer, provide retraining or alternative job opportunities where appropriate and advise the worker that they can choose to nominate their own treating doctor.
Compensation Lawyer – Breach for failure to train in manual handling
In a recent Queensland case the Plaintiff was a personal care worker who transported clients to and from medical appointments. One of the clients had a wheelie walker which the Plaintiff folded and placed in the boot of her car prior to driving the client to her appointment. When the Plaintiff tried to remove the wheelie walker, she experienced significant lower back pain and suffered personal injury.
The Plaintiff claimed that her employer had breached its duty of care in failing to provide training with regard to loading and unloading wheelie walkers. The Defendant argued that this activity was a simple and everyday task which did not require any training.
The employer’s manual handling guidelines referred to ‘appropriate manual handling techniques’ but did not specify what these techniques might be. Despite also advising that ‘adequate information, training and supervision’ should be undertaken, none was provided. There was a learning package provided to workers in relation to manual tasks and handling of people, but it included no specific instruction on how to manually handle wheelie walkers. The Court noted that wheelie walkers would be routinely handled in the course of such a care worker’s duties.
Have you received a notice from your insurer advising that your weekly workers compensation benefits are coming to an end later this year?
The current legislation provides that for injured workers who do not suffer from greater than 21% whole person impairment, entitlements to weekly benefits cease after 260 weeks of weekly compensation payments.
For workers injured prior to the 2012 NSW Workers Compensation Scheme amendments, this 260 week period will cease near the end of 2017.
Workers approaching the end of this period should receive a Section 39 Notice from their workers compensation insurer inviting them to attend an independent medical examination. This will assist the insurer to determine whether the worker is eligible for ongoing payments after 260 weeks (i.e. whether you have over 20% whole person impairment).
It is important to remember that this determination is not necessarily final. Workers are entitled to challenge the medical assessment, at no cost to them.
The Workers Compensation Independent Review Office (WIRO) can provide funding for legal advice and to meet the expenses of challenging an insurer’s assessment.
If you have been injured and made a workers compensation claim, you may be receiving ongoing weekly payments from a workers compensation insurer.
If the insurer has disputed liability for your claim, you may still be entitled to receive weekly benefits. You can speak to a compensation lawyer who will advise on challenging the insurer’s decision.
Either way, it is important to be aware of the workers compensation law in this area to anticipate how and when your weekly benefits may change over time.
First Entitlement Period
The law states that, where a worker is unable to work in any capacity as a result of their work injury, they are generally entitled to 13 weeks of compensation payments at 95% of their pre-injury earnings. Where the worker is able to work in some capacity during this time, the amount of those earnings will be deducted.
Second Entitlement Period
After 13 weeks, for the second entitlement period of 14-130 weeks, a worker who continues to have no working capacity is generally entitled to weekly payments at 80% of their pre-injury earnings.
A workers compensation injury can have a significant impact on your financial stability. The purpose of the Workers Compensation Scheme is to help you recover the costs of your injury and any losses sustained as a result.
The amount of compensation that you receive depends on how serious your injuries are and what loss you’ve suffered as a result. Generally, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical and similar expenses
- Care or other services that you need
- Loss of earnings
If your doctor has approved your return to work in some capacity, even on reduced hours and wages or with a different employer, you should notify your compensation lawyer immediately. Keeping a record of all payslips is also important to your claim.
If you are totally unfit for work, you are not required to actively seek work. If your treating practitioner certifies you as partially incapacitated, you should speak to your doctors about when it is worthwhile approaching a rehabilitation consultant.