Are casual employees entitled to WorkCover?
Yes, casual employees are entitled to claim WorkCover in Victoria just as any permanent employee would be if they suffer injury related to their employment.
Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the fact that the WorkCover legislation applies not only to permanent employees, but also casual employees.
This is understandable. After all, casual workers aren’t entitled to the same entitlements (annual leave, sick leave, long service leave) as permanent employees. And they usually don’t have guaranteed hours of work.
That being said, there are some things that you need to keep in mind as a casual worker claiming workers compensation.
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WorkCover for casual employees
As a casual worker, you are entitled to claim the same entitlements under WorkCover as a permanent full time worker.
There are however some small differences – as outlined below.
Medical and like expenses
Just like a permanent worker, as a casual worker you are entitled to claim the payment of the reasonable costs of medical and like expenses from the WorkCover Insurer.
The medical expenses that you are claiming must be ‘reasonable’.
Weekly payments of compensation for casual workers
Just like a permanent worker, as a casual, the WorkCover Insurer will pay you weekly payments if you can’t work to the same extent as what you were doing prior to the injury.
Sometimes this means that you can only do some of what you would normally do, other time it’s because you can’t work at all
In order to claim weekly payments you need to obtain certificates of capacity from your treating medical practitioner or another health professional.
The certificates of capacity need to be provided to the WorkCover insurer and you need to continue to get certificates of capacity as you go along.
Calculating your PIAWE and weekly payments as a casual worker
Calculating what you’re entitled to by way of weekly payments can sometimes be a little bit more difficult compared to doing the sums for a permanent employee.
Your weekly payments are based on your PIAWE figure.
This is an average of your earnings over a period of time, prior to suffering the injury.
Typically, the relevant period is 12 months prior to an injury.
However, if you’ve been employed with an employer for less than 12 months, then it’s calculated over the period of time you’ve been with the employer (eg; 6 months).
If you were employed for less than four weeks before an injury occurred, then the PIAWE rate may be calculated based on what you might have expected to earn had the injury not occurred over a 12 month period.
Read more: how to calculate your PIAWE
How long will I get weekly payments for as a casual?
You ‘re entitled to 130 weeks of weekly payments.
Most of the time the insurer will terminate weekly payments at 130 weeks.
After 130 weeks, in order to continue to obtain weekly payments you need to show that you don’t have a work capacity and that this is likely to continue into the future.
If you do not have a work capacity, then you are entitled to payments in addition to 130 weeks.
Impairment benefit lump sum
Just like if you’re a permanent worker, if you suffer an injury at work you can potentially pursue a claim for impairment benefits.
This is a lump sum for permanent impairment.
There really is no difference between being a casual worker and a permanent worker for the purposes of an impairment claim.
Common law claim lump sum claim
As a casual worker, you can pursue what’s called a common law claim lump sum claim just like a permanent worker can.
You can be compensated for pain and suffering and economic loss.
Economic loss can sometimes be a tricky thing to calculate for casual workers.
Calculating economic loss is about taking a before and after picture as to your earnings.
That is, what were you earning prior to the injury in the years leading up to it, and what have you earned since the injury.
As a casual worker, there is a greater chance that your earnings both pre-injury and post injury will fluctuate more than a permanent full time employee’s income would.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there is a test that you must satisfy in order to claim economic loss. Not everyone that is injured at work is able to pursue a loss of earnings claim.
You must show that as a consequence of the injury, you’ve suffered a 40% loss of earning capacity.
To illustrate this, lets say that you were earning $1000 week in week out prior to the injury. You’d need to show that there is no job out there that you could now do where you would earn $600 or more per week as a result of your injury.
As a casual, in a general sense you might be at a disadvantage in satisfying this 40% loss of earning capacity test.
Is length of time employed relevant when claiming WorkCover benefits as a casual?
No, as a casual worker you’re able to claim WorkCover benefits regardless as to the period of time you’ve been employed with an employer prior to an injury occurring.
You could for example, have been employed for 10 years, or one day. For the purposes of claiming WorkCover, generally speaking both people will be entitled to the same WorkCover entitlements.
Do I still need to be employed by an employer in order to claim WorkCover as a casual?
No, as a casual worker you can claim WorkCover benefits regardless as to whether you’re still employed by the employer with which you suffered injury.
Will claiming WorkCover as a casual impact employment?
Yes, it might. Despite what you might read online about there being protections in place for workers to prevent them from being treated differently, the reality is it does happen.
And as a casual worker, you will typically have much less job security than a permanent worker.
For this reason, if you are a casual worker, you should take some time to understand whether a WorkCover claim is right for you given your personal circumstances.
Casual workers are entitled to claim WorkCover benefits, just as a permanent employee would be able to do so.
The length of time that a worker has been employed prior to suffering an injury is irrelevant when it comes to claiming WorkCover as a casual worker.