On 22 October 2019, the Queensland Parliament passed legislation amending the workers’ compensation scheme in Queensland. The Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (Qld) (the Bill) amends the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) (the Act), particularly in relation to psychiatric/psychological injuries and rehabilitation and return to work support. In our previous article dated 12 September 2019, we outlined the changes proposed in the Bill.
Key changes to the workers’ compensation scheme
- Definition of psychiatric/psychological injuries: Amendment of the definition of ‘injury’ for psychiatric or psychological injuries, such that employment must only be a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the injury, rather than a ‘major significant contributing factor’. This is a broader definition and may increase the number of accepted psychiatric/psychological injury claims.
- Support for workers with psychiatric/psychological injuries: Introduction of a requirement that workers’ compensation insurers must take all reasonable steps to provide support services to workers with psychiatric/psychological injuries prior to acceptance of a statutory claim.
- Rehabilitation and return to work support after statutory claim: Introduction of a requirement that workers’ compensation insurers continue to provide rehabilitation and return to work support to injured workers after finalisation of their statutory claim.
- Rehabilitation and return to work coordinators: Introduction of a requirement for those employers who are required to appoint a rehabilitation and return to work coordinator must submit to their workers’ compensation insurer details demonstrating how their coordinator is appropriately qualified to undertake their role. The definition of ‘rehabilitation and return to work coordinator’ has also been amended, such that a person is taken to be appropriately qualified if they have completed a training course approved by the Workers' Compensation Regulator.
- Discretion to waive time limit for application for compensation: Clarification that workers’ compensation insurers have a discretion to waive the requirement to lodge an application for compensation within 6 months of the entitlement to compensation arising, if the injured worker has lodged a claim within 20 days of a medical practitioner determining an incapacity for work.
- Unpaid interns: Inclusion of unpaid interns in the definition of a ‘worker’.
- Expressions of regret and apologies: Clarification that an apology or expression of regret by an employer in relation to an incident cannot be construed as an admission of liability in the event of a common law claim.
Implications for businesses in Queensland
- All employers: Anticipated increases in the number of accepted psychiatric or psychological injury claims by workers in Queensland.
- Workers’ Compensation Insurers: Increases the obligation to provide psychological support prior to acceptance of any claim for psychiatric injury.
- Some employers: Imposes additional requirements to demonstrate to the workers’ compensation insurer that appointed rehabilitation and return to work coordinators are suitably qualified. These obligations are alleviated to some extent by the clarification that a person who has undertaken a training course approved by the Workers' Compensation Regulator is taken to be appropriately qualified.
- Businesses who engage unpaid interns: Entitles unpaid interns to compensation for injuries under the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme and allows WorkCover to charge employers who engage interns an additional premium.