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WorkCover Claims – Host Employment – Your Rights Explained

In this blog, I will be discussing host employment in terms of the rights and options for an injured worker and the extent or limits of their obligations to cooperate

What is Host Employment?

If an injured worker has been on statutory benefits with WorkCover for any considerable period of time and the employer is unable to provide or accommodate suitable duties or a return-to-work program it is highly likely that the topic of host employment will be raised by WorkCover.

If an injured worker works in a physically heavy or physically demanding role such as a construction laborer, concreter, steel fixer, boiler maker or one of many other physically demanding roles and the employer does not really have any ‘light duties’ then WorkCover will often look to place an injured worker with a ‘host employer’ who can offer some light duties.

WorkCover enters into an agreement with the host employer where the host employer is aware that the injured worker is currently on WorkCover and they effectively take on the injured worker by providing them with light duties and the host employer has the benefit of the work or labour performed by the injured worker at no cost.

Over the past 30 years, the writer has observed WorkCover organize host employment with a variety of employers including charitable organizations, mechanical parts companies, recreational equipment businesses, golf courses and even law firms.

If an injured worker is able to find an employer who is willing to host them this is also a possibility or prospect but the injured worker is not required to organize the host employment.

Am I required to cooperate?

This is a question we are asked frequently. The question is entirely reasonable.

The short answer is yes but only if the host employment is reasonable and if it is consistent with the injured worker’s functional work capacity.

If an injured worker has been seriously injured and let’s say they are a qualified carpenter and they are being asked to undertake host employment in a completely different line of work or business operation. The injured worker may feel some reluctance or resentment about having to undertake host employment with a host undertaking light duties in an area of work or employment that they have no interest in.

Injured workers sometimes feel that they are being forced to undertake work in an area that they don’t like or have no interest in plus they sometimes think that they may be forced to do this work in the long term and even after their WorkCover claim has ended. Not so.

If an injured workers has been on statutory benefits for a considerable period of time and if they have some functional work capacity but not enough to return to their usual or normal occupation, the statistics demonstrate that the injured workers being at home for a long period of time while they are recovering can have significant adverse impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. WorkCover is alert to this problem and host employment is widely considered beneficial to injured workers as it will get them out of the house, interacting with other people and can assist with reducing or minimizing the prospect of a secondary psychological or psychiatric injury due to the injured worker being unable to return to work promptly in their usual role.

If an injured worker is being asked to undertake host employment and the work duties are beyond the injured worker’s physical or mental capacity due to their accepted work-related injuries, the situation can be quite easily addressed by discussing the issue with the treating doctor or specialist and the WorkCover claims officer.

When host employment is arranged and if the day-to-day work duties are simply beyond the injured worker’s functional work capacity, we encourage injured workers to promptly and politely raise their concerns with the host employer, their treating doctor and the WorkCover claims officer so that the problem can be addressed.

What happens if I refuse to attend the host employment?

If an injured worker unreasonably refuses to attend the host employment which has been organized by WorkCover Queensland, the injured worker is likely to have their statutory benefits and particularly their weekly benefits or replacement wages cut off.

WorkCover will issue a statement of reasons for decision with respect to cutting off the statutory benefits and the injured worker will generally have three months to appeal the decision if the decision is unreasonable or unfair.

It is better to avoid the situation of statutory benefits being cut off in this situation if possible because even if an appeal is needed and is successful, the injured worker can be waiting many weekly and including a few months for the decision from the Workers Compensation Regulator.

Can host employment be helpful?

In the writer’s experience, absolutely.

Host employment can be helpful for a number of reasons. It allows the injured worker to return some work even if it is not their normal job and once the host employment period is over or their WorkCover claim ends, they can seek out whatever employment they wish including a return to their usual employment.

If a common law claim for damages is being pursued, an injured worker is expected and required to mitigate their loss.

In plain English, the duty to mitigate loss simply involves an injured worker seeking out employment either part-time or full-time or undertaking a training course or study to help them return to the workforce.

If an injured workers is pursuing a common law claim and does nothing to either retrain into a different role or mode of employment or seek out alternative work, the court may or will reduce the damages due to the injured worker failing to mitigate their loss.

In some cases host employment can lead to real job opportunities which is an important consideration, however, undertaking host employment does not mean that an injured person needs to submit to this role as being their future career. Injured workers need to avoid unreasonably rejecting WorkCover’s efforts to organize host employment as the consequences can be significant for the injured worker both for their statutory claim and also potentially for their common law claim for damages.

Greg is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading compensation law experts. Greg has a very healthy practice and enjoys providing his clients with superior personal service in every case. Greg is absolutely committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for his clients while keeping the legal costs down.

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State updated!
Your state has been updated to QLD. Practice areas on compensation law have been updated.