Workers’ compensation: a legal minefield
By Darryn Gaffy,
SDA Industrial Officer
- You are injured at work. What is your first step?
- Your boss says your actions were careless. He says you are not covered by workers’ compensation. What do you do?
- Your claim is rejected by your employer. What should you do?
- Your manager wants to come with you and see your doctor. What do you tell her?
- Do you know your rights re rehabilitation?
- I live from week to week. How am I going to pay for my lawyer to fight my case? I was going to see my lawyer next week and my Shop Steward suggested I ring the union.
Can you help me?
The whole area of workers’ compensation is a legal minefield. The SDA acknowledges this fact and as a result, we invest heavily in workers ’compensation and occupational health and safety. In fact, we have a whole department which specifically caters for our members’ needs in this very important area.
We provide advice over the phone, assist members in their workplaces, provide health and safety training and we also provide legal advice. In fact, the SDA is the only union in Queensland which offers such a comprehensive service to its members.
Two recent success stories on Workers’ Compensation
A member was on workers’ compensation, eventually given a full clearance from his doctor and his claim was closed. The member was then told by his employer after the claim was closed that he would have to complete a ‘task analysis checklist’. He was not to attend work until the task analysis checklist was completed and the member would have to utilise his sick leave in the meantime.
The member contacted the union for expert advice and we were able to help him.
We spoke to the member’s employer and it is pleasing to report that the company reversed the member’s sick leave usage and has reviewed its practices.
The second example concerns rehabilitation of a work-related injury. Management believed this particular member was ‘shopping around’ from doctor to doctor which ultimately proved to be inaccurate. For a period of time, there was a breakdown of trust between the member and local management.
The member contacted her SDA organiser who immediately set up a meeting with the store manager. The organiser successfully negotiated an updated return to work plan and all is on the right track now. Management understand they were too quick to judge and they made assumptions without all of the facts.
Lessons to be learned
- Both employees were SDA members;
- Both members knew they were out of their depth and they needed expert help;
- Both members went to the experts and contacted the SDA for assistance;
- SDA officials are trained. They are professionals;
- Both SDA members are very happy they joined the SDA and retained their membership.