If you’ve been injured in a work accident, the last thing you need is an employer who is pressuring you to not make a workers’ compensation claim. In this podcast, Senior Associate Jessica Prasser shares some practical steps to take if you are in this unfortunate circumstance.
Dan: If you’ve been injured in a work accident, the very last thing you need is an employer who is pressuring you not to make a worker’s compensation claim. But what are some practical steps if you’re in this unfortunate circumstance.
Well, today I’m talking with senior associate Jessica Prasser from Bourke Legal. Jess, starting with the basics, why is it important for an injured worker to formally lodge a worker’s compensation claim? And Secondly, how does this affect employers?
Jessica: So, I would say it’s important to formally lodge the claim because it covers the worker if the injury actually becomes more serious than first expected. So, sometimes injuries can take quite a while to develop, and the seriousness of that injury can take some investigation, which can take months and months.
If a claim isn’t lodged within six months, which is when the claim is required to be lodged with to be covered and the injury actually is worse than what was first expected, the worker might not actually be able to get all of the treatment and the wages, etc, covered for what they need for their time off and their recovery.
So how that affects the employer is the only thing that it affects is their premiums. So if a worker’s compensation claim is lodged, the employer’s premiums will go up for the next year.
But other than that, everything else they are supported by their workers’ compensation insurer for any expenses incurred whilst the worker is undergoing rehabilitation, return to work, etc.
Dan: So what are the negative implications in not lodging a claim and having your employer pay you directly?
Jessica: I often hear of people coming to me and saying, My employer doesn’t want me to go through the workers’ compensation scheme, they’re just offering to pay me directly. That’s always a red flag for me, and I always tell people to avoid it as much as possible.
The reason is there’s nothing under the workers’ compensation legislation which forces the employer to pay all of these workers’ compensation benefits, it’s actually on the insurer to do so.
So, my concern is always with people saying, well, your employer might be willing to pay you right now, but if something happens and the injury is more severe and you require surgery, you require an extensive time off work, or you require all these different pain treatments, medications, etc, your employer might not be so willing to cover all of those expenses and they can cut that off at any time.
Then if it’s too late down the track and you haven’t formally lodged the workers’ compensation claim with the insurer, it’s very hard for us to do that when it’s late in time and we may not be able to, which then means the workers on their own. So it is a really daunting process, and I think people need to try and avoid that as much as possible.
Dan: What about in those circumstances where an employee is being perhaps pressured to not lodge a claim by the employer?
Jessica: Yeah, look, I totally understand it’s really hard for people, Dan, because they say to me, But what if I lose my job? What? My employees pressuring me to do this? And they’re saying they’re going to look after me if I don’t lodge a claim, but if I do lodge a claim and what’s going to happen to me? So I totally understand it can be really scary for people.
I think the first thing that they should do is call a formal meeting with their boss, their HR department, and then bring a support person in with them and just have a conference with the HR department involved to say, Look, these are my concerns.
If I don’t lodge the claim properly, I’m worried that I’m not going to be covered for my injury down the track, et cetera. If the employer is really not having a bar of it, I always say to people that you can actually lodge a workers’ compensation claim directly with iCare.
Which is the workers’ compensation insurer, which covers all workers’ compensation claims other than those that are self-funded, which is not many, but things such as like Council, et cetera, they all have a self-managed insurer.
But everyone else can lodge directly with iCare and actually bypass their employer if they think that they need to. So, people can come to me and say, I don’t feel comfortable providing this information to my employer.
We then assist them in lodging a claim directly with the insurer, and then the insurer then goes off and gets whatever relevant information they need from the employer. That can kind of help the person deal with that situation if need be.
Dan: We know that it’s crucial that employers actually have up to date or current policy workers’ compensation insurance. But what about in those circumstances where an employee is a little bit worried about their employer, as to whether or not they are, in fact, insured?
Jessica: That’s a really good question. The good thing about New South Wales is there’s actually something called the New South Wales nominal insurer. Now that is the insurer that actually covers all New South Wales workers’ compensation claims, but those workers who have employers who don’t have or don’t have up to date workers’ compensation insurance.
So, people can be rest assured that there is a government insurer that covers you if your employer doesn’t have the correct insurance and they actually step in the shoes of the employer, so it is one really good thing that we have in the state, to ensure that people aren’t jeopardised because of something that wasn’t their fault, meaning their employer doesn’t have the right insurance.
Dan: If you’ve got a rogue employer who perhaps is either putting pressure or just isn’t playing like they should, is the injured employee got any rights of complaint? And how do they go about formalising that?
Jessica: Yes, so the worker can actually lodge a complaint with SIRA, which is the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, and they look after and manage employer conduct during the workers’ compensation claim process.
If someone calls us and they’ve got complaints directly about their employer, not necessarily about the workers’ compensation insurer, but about the employer, we direct them to SIRA.
They can make a complaint by calling 13 10 50, and they just set out to SIRA what their issues are, what the employee is doing. SIRA will decide whether they think it’s a behaviour that they need to get involved with, and they may actually open up a case and investigate it for that person, get in contact with the employer and find out what’s been happening.
So yeah, that is definitely where they can refer their complaints to. We always say to people, speak to your lawyer first if you’re unsure about where to go, because there are a few different government bodies that deal with different parts of a worker’s compensation claim. So speak to your lawyer and they’ll direct you in the right direction as to who should be best to deal with that.
Dan: Jess, in that vein, if people listening to this podcast do have any questions, can they reach out to you at Bourke Legal?
Jessica: Definitely. Please give us a call if you’ve got any concerns regarding any part of your workers’ compensation claim, and I’ll be able to help you work out where to go.
Dan: Jess, thanks for joining me.
Jessica: Thanks so much.
Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Bourke Legal on 1-300-026-8