Apr 29

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.[1]

However, there is encouraging news for injured workers with the introduction into parliament this 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 32-year-old injured worker Michelle Williams, this proposed legislation would have made all the difference. Ms Williams waited seven months after her Workers’ Compensation claim was accepted 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.

Ms Williams says the most significant hurdle in receiving the approved Workers’ Compensation payment benefit was due to the ‘calculations’ being undertaken, which were reliant on a complete diagnosis of her injury and accurate wage information from her employer. Ms Williams, not uncommonly these days worked three jobs, yet the insurer struggled to gather the information needed to decide on her weekly payments.

“I was told the calculation had to be ‘right’ before payments could start – despite having a medical certificate and evidence that I was unable to work. They were still trying to figure out the nature of my injury as I was bounced from practitioner to practitioner, and at the same time, gathering wage information from my employers to determine exactly ‘how much’.”

This delay caused immense stress, leading Ms Williams to rely on food donations and support from various community organisations such as the Salvation Army and St Vincent’s de Paul, which became harder to access during the holiday season.

“I had $5,000 in savings which dwindled quickly as I spent it all on medical appointments and costs to try and manage my pain. I was unfit to drive and couldn’t afford public transport to get to medical appointments so as time went on, and my condition worsened, I sold my belongings to fund the medical treatments and cover basic living costs.

“In the end, I sought financial counselling to extend due dates on overdue bills and relied heavily on loaned amounts received from friends and family to help me week to week – a position no one in their thirties wants to be in, particularly as I’d always prided myself in working hard and never relying on others,” Ms Williams said.

Financial stress and anxiety were further compounded by an employer who was not engaged in the process, resulting in misinformation and setbacks.

Greg Spinda from Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP), Ms Williams’ acting lawyer, emphasises the importance of employer engagement and communication throughout the process.

“Too many employers fail to check in with injured workers after an injury or a WorkCover claim, which can contribute to mental health issues and prolonged recovery times. For those who take time off work following an injury, secondary stress and other mental conditions are leading causes of an increased number of days off.[2]

“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,” Mr Spinda adds.[3]

Mr Spinda further stresses the importance of insurers being able to enforce the obligation on employers to provide accurate information, because this is critical to timely Workers’ Compensation payments commencing to support those suffering injury.

“The minimum payment being proposed in this Bill will help alleviate some financial stress for injured workers whilst their actual payments are calculated. Injured workers struggle financially to meet household expenses – going on workers’ compensation is not a luxury or a cash cow. Even a small amount would have allowed Ms Williams to tread water, and would have reduced the financial hole and stress she now finds herself in.

“In the end, the delays equate to higher costs for everyone involved – for employers losing workers, our healthcare system, charities and our community – when workers’ compensation should have picked up the burden instead,” Mr Spinda says.

Mr Spinda supports the proposed legislation, stating the industry had long been calling for this to ensure injured employees have access to benefits sooner, even if there are delays by insurers gathering information or by employers in providing it.

“The payment will be made while the employer supplies wage details – which they will be required to provide within 5 business days of request. The basic payment will be a set amount (very low) but is better than nothing,” Mr Spinda adds.

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

“Help me to help you. I have cost the system so much more than I ever needed to on the endless waiting list.”

She advises others in a similar position to communicate bravely with their employers about their physical limitations, as “a moment of vulnerability could save a lifetime of pain.”

[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] 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

[3] 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)

// Ends. 

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. 

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