Non-insured employers leave injured workers vulnerable
Posted on 21 Jun. 2013
Western Australian employers without workers’ compensation insurance are putting their employees at risk of having to fight to claim their entitlements.
Slater and Gordon lawyer, Irena Siljanoska, said workers’ compensation insurance was compulsory for all employers in WA but some continued to operate without it.
“Under the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981, WA employers must obtain and keep current a policy of insurance for the full amount of liability to pay compensation to any employee,” Ms Siljanoska said.
“Workers’ compensation insurance ensures that injured workers receive their entitlements, such as weekly compensation payments, and that they are covered for medical treatments.
“But some employers are disregarding the law, leaving employees with no option but to formally litigate their claim to gain their entitlements through Workcover WA’s General Fund Account.
“This means injured workers are often placed under additional financial, emotional and even medical hardship, and it also strains the workers’ compensation system.”
Ms Siljanoska said a recent case involved a client who sustained serious injuries to his head and spine after the 4WD his boss was driving rolled-over in WA’s outback.
“Our client was seriously injured in a work-related motor vehicle accident, however, the small business he was working for was not insured for workers’ compensation,” she said. “We had to litigate the matter in the Conciliation Service at Workcover WA in order to claim weekly compensation payments and recover medical treatment expenses.
“While the application was successful, there was a greater delay in receiving payments because of the drawn-out process involved with this uninsured employer.”
Ms Siljanoska said employers needed to make sure they had workers’ compensation insurance cover, and workers could also help by making sure their employers had current insurance and contacting Workcover WA if they had any doubts.
When an uninsured employer can’t pay compensation, the entitlements are taken from the Workcover General Fund Account, which acts as a safety net funded by an annual levy from approved insurers. Workcover WA must sue the uninsured employer to recover the costs of any payments made.
Compliance officers at Workcover WA can detect, investigate and where applicable, prosecute uninsured employers who may be liable to pay costs including fines of up to $5000 per worker, legal costs for court action and recovery of benefits that are ordinarily paid if a worker is injured.