Workplace injuries, regardless of size, can have a big impact on your business. From the legal and financial costs, to loss of productivity and sales, lower staff morale and in some cases, closure.
Whilst workers’ compensation is necessary to protect employees and help cover costs, understanding workplace claims is crucial for the safety and success of any business – including your own.
Last year, more than 27,000 workplace claims were recorded against businesses through the Fair Work Ombudsman. It doesn’t matter how well risks are managed or whether your industry is ‘low-risk’, injury and illnessares inevitable.
Here’s how your business can survive a workers’ compensation claim.
Protect Your Business
The best way to protect your business is to have the right workers’ compensation insurance in place.
Workers’ compensation is compulsory for all businesses in Australia. However, it’s also one of the most complex insurance types because the requirements differ between states and territories. Some laws may also vary in how much coverage is essential.
Know How Workers’ Compensation Works
Did you know there’s a 50% chance a business will experience a workers’ compensation claim in the next 10 years?
Even if your business is small or in a low-risk industry, you could be liable for medical bills and lost wages. To protect both parties, compensation is paid if an employee is injured at work or becomes sick.
Whilst the process and regulations vary, workers’ compensation claims typically involve the following:
- Injured employee reports incident to a supervisor
- Employee has the right to medical care if required
- Employer and doctor document injury details
- First Certificate of Capacity and Workers Compensation Forms must be filled out. You have five working days to lodge both forms with your insurer
- Claims made are based on a “no-fault” principle, which means the employee is entitled to compensation if they suffer an injury/illness whilst working for you and require medical treatment of time off, without needing to establish if your business is at fault or not
- The insurer will notify you within 14 days whether the claim has been accepted, disputed or pending. Pending claims can be held for 10 days pending more information and then are deemed to be in dispute if a decision is still not made
- Once a workers’ compensation claim has been opened, you cannot be sued by the employee
Understand Your Responsibilities
As the employer, you are obligated to have workers compensation insurance and maintain a record of all work-related injuries.
If a workers’ compensation is made, you must notify your insurer within 48 hours. It’s your responsibility to refer your employee to a medical practitioner before or after the claim, if required. Your insurer may also ask for this.
However, to comply with the workers’ compensation regulations, there are limits on when and how often you can ask them to attend a medical examination. Check what applies to you here.
Once the claim has been finalised, you are required to help your employee return to work safely by implementing a Return to Work Program. This is developed as a written program between you, the employee and GP. Suitable work must be provided on a part time or full-time basis as part of this program.
Encouraging your employee to recover at work is beneficial to both them and your business. These programs reduce the cost of training a replacement worker, maintain good employer-employee relationships and help to maintain the skills and knowledge of an already experienced worker.
Throughout the claim process, you are also responsible for supporting your worker. This can be done by discouraging blame, ensuring the lines of communication stay open, addressing and resolving any issues and advising your employee of their obligations, whilst staying true to yours.
Use Preventative Measures
Whilst workers’ compensation insurance doesn’t protect against negative publicity, there are measures you can take to prevent your company’s reputation from being damaged.
The legal and financial costs can be covered under workers’ compensation. However, workplace claims can affect the workplace environment itself unless managed properly.
To protect your business and its reputation, it’s your responsibility to create a safe work culture for all staff. You can do this by:
- Cover all staff with workers’ compensation insurance
- Regularly perform safety inspections
- Schedule safety training for new staff and have refreshers for seasoned employees
- Provide staff with necessary protective gear and education
- Clearly display posters, safety reminders, tips and information
- Educate employees on their rights and responsibilities for workplace accidents
- Document all events and incidents, even if a claim hasn’t been made
- If any workplace claim becomes public or known to other colleagues, maintain clear and open communication with other staff, clients, suppliers and social media outlets
The effects of a workplace accident or claim on a business go beyond paperwork. Stay on top of regular safety audits and always include your staff in the process so everyone is on the same page.