Injured workers in Queensland may finally have access to justice with the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.
If this proposed amendment passes, then workers’ compensation claims arising after 31 January 2015 will no longer be subject to the over 5% Whole Person Impairment (WPI) threshold that an injured worker requires before they can pursue a claim against a negligent employer.
Besides reinstating common law rights for injured workers and providing additional compensation to workers affected by the common law threshold, the Bill also aims to:
- Provide greater certainty of entitlement and accessibility to compensation for firefighters by introducing deemed disease provisions for firefighters with prescribed diseases;
- Prohibit prospective employers from continuing to access an individuals’ claims history; and
- Other minor miscellaneous amendments to improve the day-to-day operation of Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme.
Why Do We Need This Change for Injured Workers?
The removal of the greater than 5% permanent impairment threshold will provide much needed relief from workers who are stuck in the ‘limbo’ of the current system.
For example, a Mackay mining employer negligently fails to provide a safety protocol and results in an injury to a heavy equipment worker. The worker suffers from a soft tissue injury that requires extensive surgery and will no longer allow him to continue to lift heavy loads as required by his job. He loses his job, is unable to provide for his family in Brisbane, and suffers ongoing pain from his injuries.
However, his soft tissue injury is only assessed at a 3% WPI, so he cannot pursue a negligence claim against his employer for ongoing medical care, loss of wages or pain and suffering.
Do you think this is fair?
Protecting Our Queensland Firefighters
The bill also fills a commitment from the government to provide more coverage for Queensland firefighters by introducing provisions for current and former firefighters who are diagnosed with one of the Schedule 4A cancers on or after 15 July 2015:
|Column 1||Column 2|
|Disease||Minimum Number of Years|
|primary site brain cancer||5 years|
|primary site bladder cancer||15 years|
|primary site kidney cancer||15 years|
|primary non-Hodgkins lymphoma||15 years|
|primary leukemia||5 years|
|Primary site breast cancer||10 years|
|Primary site testicular cancer||10 years|
|Multiple myeloma||15 years|
|Primary site prostate cancer||15 years|
|Primary site ureter cancer||15 years|
|Primary site colorectal cancer||15 years|
|Primary site oesophageal cancer||25 years|
Developing these cancers will be deemed to be work related for firefighters if they meet the qualifying period of active firefighting service and applies to all active permanent & auxiliary firefighters.
Rural fire brigade members & volunteers are covered as well. Volunteer service will be considered to be active firefighting after attending at least 150 exposure incidents. Volunteers will be subject to the same entitlements and access to common law damages as permanent and auxiliary firefighters.
An Injured Workers Privacy
This bill also protects workers’ privacy by restricting access of an injured worker’s claim history from prospective employers.
The reason this change is required is not just to protect privacy, but to also prevent such information from prejudicing a worker’s future career prospects.
Is This a Victory for Injured Workers in Queensland?
The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 was just referred to the Committee on 15 July 2015.
As such, only time will tell if this Bill passes and becomes law.
If it does however, it will be a significant step forward in protecting the legal rights of Australians in Queensland by:
- Providing workers with much needed access to justice.
- Continuing to hold employers accountable for protecting the safety of their workers in the workplace.