Clash over workers' comp coverage

Employers and unions butt heads over a consideration to cut compensation for workers injured while traveling.

The Queensland State Government is considering scrapping journey and recess claims, which last year cost $50m for 6000 cases. This is part of a number of WorkCover reforms The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) is pushing for, The Courier Mail reported.

Currently, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 means that Queenslanders injured in an event that happens during a journey between home and work are able to claim compensation. Most commonly, this covers car accidents.

The CCIQ have argued that the current compensation scheme skews the balance in favour of employees, and that there are too many false claims.

"We had Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry incredibly saying it was a 'luxury' to cover for workers injured travelling to or from work ... injured workers would not think it is a luxury to be able to feed their families or pay their bills," John Battams, president of the Queensland Council of Unions, said.

Murray Procter, partner at DLA Piper, told HC that current exceptions in the act mean it is not always clear what injuries are compensable, and case law is relevant in determining if the injuries were sustained during a deviation.

“The reason for the deviation, time taken and distance travelled are all taken into account by a court in deciding whether there has been a 'substantial deviation'. In short, these cases confirm that the issue will be determined on a case by case basis depending on the facts,” Procter explained.

He raised two examples – in Johnston v Q-COMP (C/20012/2), a nurse who had injured herself falling down her home’s front stairs could not claim compensation as the journey to work had not begun. However, in Kennerley v Q-COMP (C/2012/18), a flight attendant travelling to renew his work visa outside of work hours was compensable for the injuries he suffered.

While Procter acknowledged there is potential for the system to be defrauded by people claiming injury during a journey to or from work when it wasn’t, he believes the scope of the system being ‘rorted’ is debateable.

“WorkCover Queensland has the ability to investigate suspected fraudulent claims. WorkCover Queensland's 2012 Annual Report indicates it investigated 63 cases of potential fraud, with 10 prosecutions being successfully completed.  It does not specify how many of these matters relate to 'journey claims',” he explained.

In Victoria, injuries sustained traveling from home to or from work are not covered under workers’ compensation. In NSW they are, but the scope differs to that in Queensland, Procter stated.


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