When a worker suffers an injury in the workplace and requires time away from work and/or medical treatment, that worker should lodge a workers compensation claim. Most workers in South Australia are covered by the ‘WorkCover’ scheme (soon to be replaced with the Return to Work scheme from 1 July 2015). If disputes arise regarding the management of WorkCover claims, these disputes are heard through the South Australian Workers Compensation Tribunal (or the Employment Tribunal from 1 July 2015).
However, many workers are not covered by the State scheme at all, but rather a Federal Government system called Comcare. Most people would generally be unfamiliar with the term ‘Comcare’ unless they need to personally pursue a claim through the Comcare system.
The Comcare workers compensation system covers Commonwealth public servants and Commonwealth agencies (for example, those employed by the Australian Taxation Office or Australia Post) as well as larger employers (often operating across state boundaries) who have been provided with a specific Commonwealth licence to operate under Comcare. Some of these large companies include:
- Telstra and Optus;
- Large banks, including the CBA and NAB;
- John Holland;
- BIS Industries;
- Medibank Health Solutions;
- Transpacific Industries;
- and many more.
If you are an employee of one of the organisations covered by Comcare (whether employed full-time, part-time or casual), and you suffer an injury at work, you can claim compensation under the Safety Rehabilitation & Compensation Act 1988 (Cth).
This compensation can be in the form of income maintenance (so you do not need to rely on your personal sick, annual and long service leave), payment of reasonable medical expenses, permanent impairment compensation, etc. These rights will be explored in more detail in later blog articles.
Injuries sustained at work or diseases that result from your employment can be covered by the Comcare system; the law distinguishes ‘injuries’ and ‘diseases’. Physical injuries include direct injuries to a body part (eg, spraining your back, dislocating a knee or shoulder, or even an amputation of a limb) and this can also include an aggravation of a pre-existing injury.
Diseases include psychological disorders, heart conditions, respiratory conditions and strokes, and these diseases can either be directly caused from employment or they are often aggravated/exacerbated by employment.
There are many other elements to the Comcare scheme that have not been covered in the above information. For example, Comcare also provides entitlements to spouses and dependents if a worker dies as a result of a work related injury or disease.
The Comcare system is very complicated, and the law is constantly evolving with new litigation being disputed all the time. If you are injured or suffer a disease caused by your employment, and your employer is covered by the Comcare system, you should seek advice as soon as possible.