May 10

Each year in Queensland, 90,000 workers suffer an injury on the job and turn to Workers’ Compensation as their first step towards recovery and support. For many claimants, the process of receiving their first much-needed payment can be slow and exhausting resulting in long-lasting and often detrimental impacts on their physical and mental wellbeing.[1]

However, there is encouraging news for injured workers with the introduction into parliament last month of the Queensland Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024. If passed, the legislation will ensure the insurer makes a basic weekly payment to the injured worker within one week of acceptance of the claim. Even if, the employer has not provided sufficient information for the insurer to determine the actual weekly benefit amount.

For 45-year-old injured worker Mandy* from Cairns, this proposed legislation would have made all the difference. After waiting six months for her Workers’ Compensation claim to be accepted, she waited a further three months to receive her first weekly benefits amount. During this period her condition deteriorated, at a great cost to her financially, and to her physical and psychological health.

Mandy says the most significant hurdle in receiving the approved Workers’ Compensation payment benefit was the lack of continuity between claims officers and the poor communication.

“I had at least five case workers during my assessment period. The communication from each was always different and every time a new person was assigned, I spent a lot of time bringing them up to date on the history of my case. I never knew where I stood.”

The delay caused immense stress for the single mother of two who ultimately resorted to selling the family home to fund the medical treatments and cover basic living costs.

“With the limited profit made on the sale of my home and being amid a housing crisis, I couldn’t afford the higher rents being asked and my rental applications were rejected. I now live in a home that can be best described as a ‘shed’ and is without a flushing toilet. With the current cost of living, tradespeople have become a luxury I cannot afford.”

“I was further impacted in December by cyclone Jasper and watched as my veranda floated off into the ocean. I survived during that time by picking mangoes off the highway to eat – a position no one in their forties expects to be in, particularly as I’ve always been a conscientious worker and homeowner providing for my family.”

Financial stress and anxiety were further compounded by an employer who had a ‘tokenistic’ involvement in the process and was focused on getting Mandy back to work prematurely.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD, panic disorder and severe anxiety as a result of the verbal abuse by clients and bullying by co-workers. I left work in tears daily and despite supplying a Not Fit for Work certificate, my employer did not take my condition seriously. I was pressured to return to work, even though I had not yet received the treatment I so desperately needed.”

Beth Rolton from Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP) emphasises the importance of employer engagement in the process and a safe return to work plan for the injured worker.

“We wholly support the return-to-work program, but the focus needs to be on a ‘safe’ return to work done in consultation with the worker’s treatment providers. It can’t be done prematurely because there is a risk if not done right, it could further exacerbate the injuries and hinder the recovery process.”

“Unfortunately, Queensland employers have fared well below the national average of employer response to injury, willingness to support injured workers, and to treat workers fairly. Making a claim is a necessary choice most people would prefer not to make,” Ms Rolton adds.[2]

Ms Rolton further stresses the importance of receiving early and timely Workers’ Compensation payments.

“The minimum payment being proposed in this Bill will help alleviate some financial stress for injured workers whilst their claim is being decided and payments calculated. With no income, injured workers struggle financially to meet household expenses and even a small amount would have helped Mandy to tread water and start medical treatment earlier – all of which ultimately supports an earlier return to work.

“Often claims for psychological injuries aren’t straightforward. Typically, we see lengthy delays in the processing and acceptance of these claims by WorkCover and these delays cause additional stress for these vulnerable workers.

“In the end, the delays equate to higher costs for everyone involved – for employers losing workers, our healthcare system, charities and our community,” Ms Rolton said.

Ms Rolton supports the proposed legislation, stating the industry had long been calling for this to ensure injured employees have access to benefits sooner.

“The basic payment will be a set, very low amount but will allow injured workers who’s claims have been approved to start the all-important diagnosis and healing process sooner,” Ms Rolton adds.

For Mandy, her message to policy decision-makers is clear.

“Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Someone who is at breaking point, someone who is only alive because they have children, someone who has lost the security of their home. Please ease the financial burden while we recover – people live week-to-week and cannot afford a $165 per hour medical specialist.”

She advises others in a similar position to speak up in the workplace and keep doing it until someone will listen and reminds others that “you won’t heal in the environment that keeps knocking you down.”

// Ends. 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

To learn more about Travis Schultz & Partners, visit www.schultzlaw.com.au

Media contact: Trudie Abel, Fresh PR & Marketing | 0408 119 443 | trudie@freshprm.com.au

About Travis Schultz & Partners 

Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP) was established by founding Managing Partner, Travis Schultz in 2018, based on the guiding values of fairness, respect and compassion. The award-winning, nationally recognised compensation law firm has a team of more than 60, with offices in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and Cairns. 


[1]  Queensland workers’ compensation scheme statistics 2022-23; https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/122284/workers-compensation-scheme-statistics-202223-pocket-book.pdf

[2] The Social Research Centre, 2021 National Return to Work Survey Report, February 2022 at 52 (https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2022-02/2021%20National%20Return%20to%20Work%20Survey%20Report.pdf)

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