Under Australian employment law, injured workers are entitled to apply for workers’ compensation. However, some employees seek treatment in secret, rather than risk jeopardising their career. If this is you, rest assured that there are employer obligations and protections that prevent you from being victimised or unfairly treated at work.
Employer obligations – Can’t dismiss or threaten to dismiss you
Regardless of whether or not you’re fit to return to your previous duties, your employer is prevented by law from terminating your employment within 52 weeks of injury. This includes forcing you to resign by imposing unreasonable conditions on your employment.
They may only replace you on a temporary basis while you are incapacitated, and are prohibited from using your injury to discriminate against you or to deny you future opportunities.
Employer obligations – Reinstate you to your former position/suitable equivalent
You are entitled to resume normal duties within 12 months of your injury. This should happen as soon as you are cleared by your doctor and cease receiving payments. If you are no longer able to perform these duties, your employer is obliged to assign you other suitable duties.
When doing this, they must take into account your qualifications, skills, and experience. This means they cannot alter your position to include tasks that would be considered demeaning to someone at your current level of employment.
Employer obligations – Provide a return to work coordinator and plan
Your employer will need to consult with you, your doctor, and your rehabilitation provider when planning your return to work. If they haven’t already, they’re also required to appoint a rehabilitation and return to work coordinator to help manage your case.
Your return to work plan should take into account:
- your present work capabilities, and
- any reasonable changes they can make to your hours, duties, equipment, or working conditions to accommodate your injury.
Not only should your employer be aware of these requirements, but they should ensure this information is available to workers. Employers found to be in breach of employment law risk prosecution and financial penalties.