The coronavirus pandemic is creating an unprecedented state of uncertainty and fear. If you’re on WorkCover and in receipt of weekly payments for your work injury, you may be worried about what will happen to your entitlements, given the shutdown of many services.
The purpose of this article is to answer as many questions as you might have.
Am I still entitled to weekly payments?
If you were receiving weekly payments of compensation because of a work-related incapacity (injury or illness), then your entitlement should not change due to the coronavirus.
As long as your incapacity for work is still related to the injury for which you originally claimed, then your entitlement to weekly payments should remain the same, irrespective of what is happening at your workplace or elsewhere.
You should continue to obtain certificates of capacity (workers’ compensation medical certificates) and give these to your employer or insurer as usual. Many medical clinics are offering telehealth appointments during the current pandemic.
What if I have difficulty getting to a doctor for certificates of incapacity?
Many medical clinics are offering telehealth appointments; however, you may not be able to access an appointment for a certificate before your current certificate expires, or at all.
If this is the case, contact your employer or case manager to explain the situation and provide the certificate at your earliest opportunity.
Your doctor can backdate the certificate up to 90 days if necessary. Your doctor also has the ability to provide an extended certificate in special circumstances.
If you are unable to sign the patient declaration, you may be able to fulfil this obligation by email. You should contact the insurer for further information about this.
If your payments are suspended or terminated because of your failure to provide a valid certificate of capacity, you should seek advice from a lawyer who specialises in workers’ compensation immediately.
Am I entitled to weekly payments if I was working in modified employment and my employer stands me down?
If you were working in modified employment (for example, you were working either part time or full time completing alternative or modified duties), either with your pre-injury employer or elsewhere, and that workplace can no longer provide suitable duties due to the coronavirus, then you should seek a reinstatement of your weekly payments.
Again, you should continue to obtain certificates of capacity. You will have an obligation to make reasonable attempts to find other suitable employment.
What if my employer is still able to provide me with suitable duties but I choose not to go to work?
If you voluntarily cease or reduce your employment, then a decision may be made to stop paying your weekly payments. If you are considering doing this due to concerns about exposure to the virus, it is critical that you speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer first.
Am I still entitled to weekly payments if my employer shuts down or ceases trading?
As long as you still have an incapacity for work that is materially contributed to by your work-related injury, you will continue to have an entitlement to weekly payments. You should send your certificates of capacity to the insurer directly.
Can my employer terminate my employment?
Your employer is obliged to provide either suitable or pre-injury employment for a period of at least 52 weeks to the extent that it is reasonable to do so.
The current Covid-19 pandemic may impact on your employer’s ability to do this.
If you believe that your employer is terminating or altering your employment for reasons unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic, you should seek legal advice immediately.
If your employment is terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your entitlement to weekly payments should not be affected.
What if my employment is terminated and my employer pays out my leave entitlements?
If your employment is terminated and you are paid in lieu of accrued annual and long service leave entitlements, this payment will not affect your weekly payments.
What if I receive a redundancy or severance payment?
If your injury was sustained on or after 5 April 2010, payments of this nature will not affect your calculation of weekly payments. You will continue to receive your weekly compensation payments.
Can I access my income protection policy?
Accessing benefits under such a policy may impact on the way your weekly payment amount is calculated and you should seek legal advice from a lawyer experienced in workers’ compensation before doing this.
Can I access my superannuation?
There are several factors that determine how and if this will impact your entitlement to weekly payments. If you are still in receipt of or entitled to receive weekly payments and you are considering accessing your superannuation fund, you should seek legal advice as to how this will specifically affect you.