For a variety of different reasons, injured workers on the WorkCover system in South Australia advise us that they need to move interstate. Often injured workers lack the ability, resources or support to properly look after themselves in South Australia, and feel that they need to reside interstate with family, at least until they recover. This need to move interstate occurs both when workers suffer from physical injuries and psychological injuries.
For example, a worker who has injured his/her back may need to move interstate to live with their parents as they are unable to perform daily tasks themselves due to their restrictions, pain and suffering. Similarly, an injured worker who is suffering major depression may feel that they need the support of family and friends interstate or else their psychological condition might deteriorate.
The general rule regarding workers compensation in this State is that if you are injured at work in South Australia then the law requires that you reside in the State in order to receive WorkCover weekly payments of income maintenance.
The requirement to live in the State only affects income maintenance, not other entitlements under the legislation, including reimbursement for reasonable medical expenses or lump-sum compensation for pain and suffering.
However, the law does allow income maintenance to continue if a worker moves interstate in some circumstances. If you are receiving income maintenance payments and you wish to travel interstate (for example, to visit family or friends, or take a holiday) then the law does not prohibit you from doing so, as long as it does not conflict or interfere with any rehabilitation or scheduled medical appointments.
If you wish to reside interstate and continue to receive income maintenance then you must get the consent from WorkCover (or the self-insured employer) to reside outside of South Australia.
If you reside outside of South Australia (or travel and remain outside of South Australia for more than two months) without the consent of WorkCover, then they may cease your income maintenance payments. A decision to cease your income maintenance payments can be disputed in the Workers Compensation Tribunal and you should seek legal advice as soon as you receive any correspondence indicating that your payments may cease.
WorkCover is not allowed to simply deny your request to move interstate - they have to make a 'reasonable' decision in the circumstances, and this is determined on a case by case basis. If, for example, an injured worker suffering from major depression was not given consent to move to Queensland to live with his mother, this would most likely be an unreasonable decision, and should be disputed in the Tribunal.
Sometimes problems arise when workers simply want to travel interstate for a brief period (that is, you continue to formally reside in South Australia, but leave the State for a period of time). As a general rule, if you want to travel interstate, even if only for a brief period, then you should advise both your lawyer and your workers compensation Case Manager of your intention to travel interstate. You should also ask the Case Manager to avoid making any appointments for the period that you will be outside SA. In most circumstances, a case manager does not have a problem with a worker travelling interstate, or even overseas, to visit loved ones or for a holiday.
However, your Case Manager may ask you to sign a "Voluntary Discontinuance of Income Maintenance" form for the period of time that you intend to be interstate. By signing this form, you will not receive income maintenance payments for the period you are outside the State. You are not obliged to sign this form, and you should always seek legal advice before signing any document that states that your income maintenance will cease for any reason.
If you request consent to either travel or reside interstate while on WorkCover and the consent is not given, you should seek legal advice immediately.