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Casual worker? How to calculate your WorkCover benefits

Key points

  • It is illegal to stop a casual worker lodging a WorkCover injury claim
  • Replacement income and medical benefits are available through WorkCover
  • It’s easy to calculate WorkCover benefits for a casual worker.

Many people these days feel fortunate just to have a job, so they are reluctant to jeopardise their employment by making a WorkCover injury claim.

Casual workers especially may be unaware of their right to WorkCover benefits, or they are reluctant to lodge a claim because they feel more vulnerable. If you are a casual worker it is important to understand that you have exactly the same legal rights as a permanent employee.

I’m a casual worker, what do I do if I’ve been hurt at work?

There are 4 basic things you need to do:

  • First, tell your doctor that you’ve been injured. Remember, you have a right to choose your own doctor, and not have the company doctor forced on you
  • Make a record of your injury in your employer’s injury log book. (Note: if working through a labour hire firm, you will need to fill in the injury log at both your host employer and with the labour hire agency)
  • If there is no Register of Injuries available, or you cannot attend the workplace, report your injury by email and retain a record
  • Notify your union representative or your OH&S rep
  • Submit a WorkCover (WorkSafe) injury claim form.

Some employers try to intimidate employees against listing their injury in the company injury book. THIS IS ILLEGAL and should it occur, report it to WorkSafe immediately.

How do I calculate my WorkCover benefits as a casual?

You are entitled to claim WorkCover benefits regardless of the length of time you’ve been employed.

If you have been employed for less than 12 months

Calculate the average number of hours worked each week since you started work. If you’re with a labour hire agency, include any work done with other “host” employers.

You will be entitled to replacement income based on that average.

If you have been employed for more than 12 months

Calculate the average number of hours worked each week over the past 52 weeks. You will be entitled to replacement income based on that average.

You are entitled to weekly payments for the entire time you are off work. You can also have all “reasonable” medical expenses paid by WorkCover, including rehabilitation, and even items like home help, should you need it.

What if I am permanently injured as a casual?

If it is unlikely you will ever be able to return to work, lodge a permanent impairment claim with WorkCover. This entitles you to a lump sum compensation payment.

If employer negligence was involved in causing your permanent injury, you should also lodge a Common Law claim against WorkCover for damages. The payouts from successful claims are usually very large because they are calculated on the basis of the estimated loss of future earnings, plus payment of compensation for any pain or suffering you have incurred.

These payments are often strenuously resisted by both the employer (through their claims agent) and by WorkCover, so it is important to get yourself a qualified lawyer to help.

Some other important things to know as a casual

  • Casual workers are covered by WorkCover even if their employer has been neglecting to pay their WorkCover premiums. The employer can be prosecuted for not doing so. It will not affect your entitlements and support
  • It is illegal to sack a casual worker who has submitted an injury claim to WorkCover
  • How you fill in the detail in your WorkCover claim form can affect your entitlement to compensation in the future. It pays to get advice
  • If you are seriously injured, you really should consult with an expert WorkCover injury lawyer. Many offer a first interview free of charge, but be careful because many lawyers also require your credit card details before meeting with you. Make sure you choose a law firm like RCT Law where there are no catches or fine print.

This article was first published on 26 June, 2013 and updated on 9 November 2020.