After suffering a work-related injury, you may be receiving workers' compensation payments for a period of time to allow your body to heal so you can commence your duties again. But what happens to these payments if, within this time period, you decide to leave your job or you are let go by your employer?
Here’s what you need to know about the termination of an employment contract while receiving workers' compensation.
Resigning from your job while receiving workers compensation payments
The purpose of workers' compensation is to allow injured workers the time to heal from their injury without worrying about earning an income. Therefore, an injured worker should not resign from their job while they are healing from a work-related injury and receiving workers' compensation.
The replacement wages that an injured worker receives from WorkCover will be at a rate of 75% or 85% of their usual weekly earnings and includes additional payments of medical, pharmaceutical, rehabilitation and travel costs. So, the time spent not working is the optimal opportunity to rest, seek treatment and undertake rehabilitation (if required) as the bills will continue to be paid even if you are not attending your place of work.
If you are an injured worker who is receiving compensation and you are having doubts about your ability to return to work, do not resign. Have an honest and open conversation with your treating doctor so you can seek reassurance and map out your next steps for your eventual return to work. The most important thing you can do at this time is to heal and maintain your employment so that you continue to receive WorkCover payments.
Will compensation payments continue if I am fired while on WorkCover?
It is illegal for your employer to terminate your employment within 12 months of the work-related injury being sustained and they will face a fine of up to $5,338 if they are found to have unlawfully fired you.
It is also illegal to deny injured workers from receiving opportunities such as a promotion, bar them from working their regular hours (if they are fit to do so), or demote or suspend an injured worker for being unable to complete their duties.
If an injured worker is still receiving workers' compensation payments more than 12 months on from their injury their employer is legally allowed to terminate their employment. Payments made by WorkCover to the injured party will likely reduce to 75% of their ordinary weekly pay in this instance.
If, after two years, the injured worker is still unfit for work and their abilities have been impaired by more than 15% they will continue to receive 75% of their usual weekly pay as workers compensation payments, however, if it is found that their injury has caused them less than a 15% impairment their payments will reduce to the same rate as the current Centrelink disability support pension rates.
Is it legal for my employer to make me redundant while I am on WorkCover?
Generally speaking, yes. Where a genuine redundancy exists, it is legal for an employer to let their employee go, even if they are receiving WorkCover payments and the redundancy occurs within 12 months of the injury being sustained.
Employers must be careful to treat the redundancy the way they would any other redundancy where the worker is not receiving WorkCover payments. Employers should ensure they offer the injured worker either a minimum notice period or payment in lieu of a notice period in addition to redundancy pay, as well as a payout of any applicable entitlements, including accrued annual or long service leave.
If you need legal advice regarding your rights while receiving workers' compensation payments, including in relation to redundancy, termination, or resignation our experienced personal injury lawyers can help you navigate your situation. Contact them on (07) 4052 0700.