If you hurt yourself at work and are in receipt of WorkCover weekly compensation payments for your time off work, you have probably been asked to participate in planning for your return to work, even if you are still suffering from the effects of your injury. The purpose of this article is to discuss your obligations to participate in planning for your return to work and the consequences of non-compliance.
What are your obligations in planning your return to work after a workplace injury?
One of the primary objectives of the Victorian WorkCover scheme is to facilitate the early return of injured workers back to work. Both you as the worker and your employer have obligations you need to meet when planning for your return to work. Your obligations are:
- Participate in planning for your return to work. This may include having discussions with your employer, case manager and/or doctor about duties you could perform either now or in the future.
- Use occupational rehabilitation services. This usually involves meeting with a provider appointed by your WorkCover agent and participating in activities such as meetings with your employer to assess duties you can undertake in your current employment or to look for work with other employers.
- Participate in assessments. These assessments are generally with independent medical examiners engaged by your WorkCover agent for the purpose of assessing your capacity for work, rehabilitation progress and your future employment prospects.
- Return to work. If you are provided with suitable work, you have an obligation to reasonably return to and participate in this work. This could be with your pre-injury employer or a new employer.
- Participate in an interview. This interview would typically be between you and your case manager. You must be given prior notice of both the details of the meeting and the fact you are entitled to bring a support person.
There are two key concepts to remember when thinking about the above obligations.
The first is that these obligations apply to workers with an incapacity for work. This means that even if you cannot currently work, you are still required to meet the above obligations.
Secondly, throughout the provisions detailing the above obligations is the use of the term “reasonable”. You need to take reasonable efforts to participate or participate to an extent that it is reasonable to do so.
If you’re unsure at any stage, you should seek advice.
How is the term “reasonable” assessed when planning to return to work?
There are no hard and fast rules on what is “reasonable.” This will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, but there needs to be a consideration of a variety of factors.
These can include:
- the physical and psychological effects of both your work related injury and any other injuries you are suffering;
- the effects of any medication you are taking;
- where you live;
- your access to transport; and
- any family responsibilities you have.
What happens if I do not meet my obligations?
If you do not reasonably comply with your return to work obligations, the WorkCover agent may suspend your weekly payments.
Before your payments are suspended, you must first receive a notice identifying how it is alleged you have failed to comply with your obligations and what you can do to remedy the alleged breach.
If you fail to remedy the alleged breach within the time frame given in the notice, your weekly payments may be suspended for 28 days. If you have not remedied the alleged breach within the period of the suspension, your entitlement to weekly payments may be terminated.
What can I do if I disagree with my WorkCover agent’s decision?
If you disagree with any decision (not just a decision related to your return to work obligations) made by your WorkCover agent, you can challenge this decision by referring it to the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service.
You only have 60 days from the date of the decision to make this referral. This time limit can be extended in some circumstances.
At Polaris, we are experts in WorkCover compensation claims. We’ve successfully represented many clients who have appealed decisions made by their WorkCover agent. It’s important for you to understand that you do not have to automatically accept all decisions made by the agent.
For advice or assistance in relation to any aspect of your WorkCover claim, contact us today. It costs you nothing to find out if you have a claim.