On 17 August 2020, we reported on the details of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill which sought to reduce the difficulties in proving entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits by reversing the onus of proof for compensation for first responders diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Bill was passed on 20 May 2021 as the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (WCRA). The Bill was passed without significant changes.
The key amendments to the WCRA are as follows:
- definition of first responders and eligible employees: ambulance, fire and police officers, volunteer firefighters, youth justice staff members, child safety officers, corrective services officers, doctors or nurses employed in trauma, acute, critical or high dependency care, and other workers employed in first responder agencies;
- meaning of first responder: a person employed as a worker or volunteer whose employment requires them to respond to incidents that are life-threatening or otherwise traumatic and for which time may be critical to prevent potential death, injury or minimise environmental or property damage;
- meaning of eligible employee: a person employed as a worker or volunteer whose employment requires them to experience repeated or extreme exposure to traumatic incidents, including death, serious injury or sexual violence;
- presumption of injury: a person who is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having PTSD and was employed at any time before the diagnosis as a first responder or eligible employee is taken to have an entitlement to compensation for that injury, unless it is proved that it did not arise out of the course of their employment or their employment was not a significant contributing factor; and
- examination of claimants by psychiatrist: if a person who has been employed as a first responder or eligible employee makes an application for compensation for PTSD and has not previously been diagnosed, the insurer must arrange for the claimant to be examined by a psychiatrist.
These amendments recognise that the cumulative exposure to trauma in first responders makes it difficult for those workers to pinpoint a single event that contributed to their condition, which can result in delays and unnecessary investigations during the claim acceptance process and consequent delays in the provision of necessary treatment.
For further information or discussion, please contact a member of our Insurance team.