Workers’ compensation is a compulsory insurance for employees who are injured or get sick at or because of their work. Most employers are required by law to take out this insurance. Small businesses that pay a salary of $7,500 or less do not need to take out workers’ compensation policies.
What does workers' compensation cover?
Workers’ compensation schemes are designed to compensate you if you need medical treatment, rehabilitation or time off to recover after being injured at work. It also covers the costs if you get sick from your work — for example if you develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
If your claim is accepted, the benefits you could receive include:
- costs of your medical and hospital treatment
- income replacement payments for loss of earnings while you are off work
- 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
Some schemes treat psychological trauma and mental illnesses in the same as they treat physical injuries and illnesses, while others don’t. Check with your scheme to find out.
Workers’ compensation schemes
There are 11 workers’ compensation schemes, with 3 for people employed by the Commonwealth Government and 8 for people employed by each state and territory.
The Commonwealth Government schemes are:
- Comcare, for:
- Commonwealth Government agencies and statutory authorities (but excluding members of the Australian Defence Force who began service on or after 1 July 2004)
- ACT Government and its agencies
- corporations that have been granted a licence to self-insure
- Seacare, for seafarers injured while working at sea
- Department of Veterans' Affairs, for current or former members of the Australian Defence Force who began service on or after 1 July 2004
The state and territory workers’ compensation schemes are:
- SafeWork NSW
- WorkSafe ACT
- WorkCover Queensland
- Worksafe Tasmania
- WorkCover WA
- Worksafe Victoria
How workers' compensation works
Premiums are paid by the employer. The schemes cover most workers, including full-time workers, part-time workers and apprentices. Some casual workers and volunteers may be included. Most schemes do not cover contractors or sub-contractors.
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.
Schemes differ, so check whether you are covered and what to do if you plan to make a claim.
Making a claim
If you want to make a claim, you need to:
- 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 (some schemes allow you to claim by telephone)
- in some cases, attend another medical appointment with a doctor chosen by your employer or insurer to provide further evidence that your injury or illness is work-related, and what treatment is required
Payments for incapacity are generally made to the employer, who passes the payment on to the injured worker. Check with your workers’ compensation scheme for the exact claims process and deadlines for notifying an employer.
Resources and support
If you need free or low-cost legal information and advice, contact:
- your local community legal centre
- your local legal aid commission
- your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service
- the Australian Pro Bono Centre, which has options depending on where you live
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Last reviewed: October 2019