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Workers' compensation

7-minute read

Key facts

  • If you are injured at work, you may be eligible for workers' compensation.
  • If you become ill from your work — for example, through asbestos exposure — you can also claim workers' compensation.
  • Workers' compensation insurance may cover you for lost wages, medical treatment and rehabilitation, depending on the claim.
  • It's important to notify your employer as soon as possible if you are injured at work.

What is workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation is a mandatory insurance for employees who are injured or get sick at or because of their work.

Employers in Australia are required by law to take out this insurance to cover their workers.

There are different workers' compensation schemes in Australia. There is a scheme for each state and territory and 3 Commonwealth schemes. They have different laws and may be different in the way they work.

Information on the Commonwealth and state and territory workers' compensation schemes is available below.

What does workers' compensation cover?

Workers' compensation covers costs if you need medical treatment, rehabilitation, or time off to recover after being injured at work. It may also cover your costs if you get sick from your work. For example, if you develop asbestosis or mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.

If your claim is accepted, the benefits you could receive include:

  • costs of your medical and hospital treatment
  • cover some of your wages while you are off work
  • lump-sum payment if you are permanently impaired, such as due to a spinal cord injury
  • death or funeral benefits if you die as a result of a work-related injury or illness

Other support offered can be:

  • education and training
  • domestic assistance
  • access to medical specialists and therapy providers

Some workers' compensation schemes also cover psychological trauma and mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Check with your scheme to find out.

What are workers' compensation schemes?

There are 11 workers' compensation schemes in Australia: 3 Commonwealth schemes and 8 for people employed by each state and territory.

Commonwealth Government workers' compensation schemes

The Commonwealth schemes are:

  • Comcare, for:
    • Commonwealth Government employees
    • employees of corporations that have been granted a licence to self-insure
    • members of the Australian Defence Force who served before 1 July 2004
  • Seacare for some seafarers injured while working
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs for Australian Defence Force members who began service on or after 1 July 2004

State and territory workers' compensation schemes

The state and territory workers' compensation schemes are:

How does workers' compensation work?

Workers' compensation premiums are paid by your employer. Workers' compensation schemes cover most workers, including full-time workers, part-time workers and apprentices. Some casual workers and volunteers may be included. Some schemes may also cover contractors or sub-contractors. This will depend on the contract you have.

Workers' compensation also covers employees while they travel for work or on work-related business.

The injury or illness should have occurred at work or be work-related and should require medical treatment and/or time off.

Different schemes have different rules, so check if you are covered and what to do if you plan to make a claim.

How do I make a claim?

When making a claim:

  • Notify your employer about the work-related injury or illness as soon as possible.
  • See a doctor who can assess your injury or illness and decide what treatment is needed for you to recover. They should issue you with a medical certificate or work capacity certificate if you need time off work.
  • Fill in a claim form for your workers' compensation scheme. You can either do this by filling out a paper workers' compensation claim form or online. Some schemes allow you to claim by telephone.
  • In some cases, you many need to attend another medical appointment with a doctor chosen by your employer or insurer. This is to provide further evidence that your injury or illness is work-related and what treatment is required.

Workers' compensation payments depend on your state and territory. You may be paid by:

  • the insurer
  • your employer who passes the payment on to you
  • the workers compensation regulator

Again, schemes may differ. So check with your employer and workers' compensation scheme for the exact claims process and timeframe for notifying an employer.

Resources and support

Safe Work Australia has a range of resources and information about workers' compensation.

To find specific information for your specific scheme visit the workers' compensation authority website in your state or territory.

  • Australian Capital Territory – WorkSafe ACT
  • Queensland – WorkSafe Queensland
  • New South Wales – SafeWork NSW
  • Northern Territory – NT WorkSafe
  • South Australia – ReturnToWorkSA
  • Tasmania – Worksafe Tasmania
  • Victoria – Worksafe Victoria
  • Western Australia – WorkCover WA

If you need free or low-cost legal information and advice, contact:

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

You can find legal information and advice by contacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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