Workplace Injuries

Can casual workers claim workers' compensation?

October 8, 2021
Carpenter hard at work

There are between two and three million people employed on a casual basis in Australia (about 24.4 per cent of the workforce). The retail, and accommodation and food services industries account for a large proportion; with construction, health and social assistance services not far behind.

Businesses often hire a casual workforce to find staff without the need to pay permanent employee benefits like leave entitlements. Being a casual worker can be difficult, though. If you are one, you’d know the feeling of insecurity and uncertainty all too well.

Casual workers also tend to shy away from complaining about, or reporting workplace safety risks, or injuries to avoid conflict with their boss (out of fear of losing their job and being left out of pocket).

However, it’s commonly mistaken that casual employees are going to be left to fend for themselves if they’re injured on the job. Even though casual employees have no firm ties to ongoing work, and aren’t entitled to sick or annual leave pay, there is one entitlement they share with permanent employees – the right to claim workers’ compensation.

Let’s explore further.

Am I covered by WorkCover as a casual employee in Queensland?

Yes. Casual employees – whether a sales assistant, carer, hospitality or fast-food worker – are covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance (in most cases, through WorkCover Queensland). And they have the same legal rights when it comes to lodging a claim.

All employers know this and should have no problem with it, though we understand that some may try to swindle and tell their casuals they aren’t eligible even if their injury occurred at or because of work.

In fact, you don’t even need your boss’s permission to submit a claim (though they will know that you’ve made one once the investigation starts).

What WorkCover benefits can I get as a casual employee?

As with any other part-time, full-time or contracted employee, casual employees have two options for workers’ compensation payments if injured because of work:

  1. Statutory Benefits: you can claim weekly compensation benefits that are designed to replace your wage while you’re out of action and cover some medical or rehab expenses. And in the unfortunate case that you’re permanently impaired, you may also be offered a lump-sum payment.
  2. Common-Law Damages: If your injury occurs through the fault of your employer, you may be able to put in a claim for common law damages, which you’ll find is generally more than what WorkCover would offer you in the lump sum payment.

So, although you’ll often endure job uncertainty as a casual employee, it’s important to know that you are (and should be!) treated the same as a permanent employee if you injure yourself and are unable to work.

What should I do if I’ve been injured at work?

No one deserves to be hurt at work. But if you are, the process to reporting the injury and making a claim doesn’t change either.

Get medical attention and report to your doctor – immediately

First things first, seek medical attention. Your employer may tell you that you need to see the company doctor, but be aware that you are entitled to get treatment from anyone you choose. Read more about why you should always use your own doctor after a work injury here.

Report your workplace injury or accident to your employer

At most workplaces it’s company policy to fill out an incident report if someone is hurt. Be sure to report it to a supervisor straight away and note everything that happened – even if you think it’s only minor, in case your injury worsens and you need to submit a WorkCover claim down the track. If you’re a contracted casual through an agency, ensure you report it to the agency as well. Find out more about reporting incidents and unsafe workplaces here.

Lodge a WorkCover Queensland injury claim form

If your injury or illness is causing you pain and disrupting your work capacity, you should lodge a WorkCover claim within six months. You can do this yourself, but we recommend also seeking legal advice.

Can my employer deny my WorkCover claim or reject my injury report?

No. Your employer cannot deny your claim – only WorkCover Queensland can do that. If this happens, they may have legitimate reasons including:

  • You didn’t lodge within the six-month timeframe;
  • Your injury isn’t work-related;
  • You haven’t been off work long enough;
  • Your injury didn’t happen in Queensland.

There are avenues to take a rejected claim further when you don’t think it should have been rejected. Although there are strict timeframes for doing this. Read more about how to handle a WorkCover rejection here.

However, this isn’t the same if your employer doesn’t want you to make an injury report (which is illegal). Your boss has legal obligations to report all serious injuries to the Workplace Health and Safety Regulator, and WorkCover, even if you don’t intend to make a claim.

Final important thoughts for a casual employee claiming WorkCover

In summary, as a casual employee, you are still entitled to make a WorkCover claim if you’ve been injured at work – even if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, or tries to discourage you from recording the incident or making a claim.

And rest assured, it’s also illegal for your boss to sack you if you’re injured on the job, or if you lodge a WorkCover claim. Read more about your rights if you’re fired while on WorkCover here.

Profile Picture of Peta Miller

A finalist for the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland's (WLAQ) Emergent Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2017 and Solicitor for the past seven years, Peta has worked exclusively in compensation law for 6 of those years.

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Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation.

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