Terminating an Injured Worker: Legal Considerations for Employers in Queensland
In the realm of workplace safety and employee welfare, it is essential for employers to recognize their responsibilities when it comes to workers who have suffered work-related injuries or contracted occupational diseases. Employers must adhere to specific legal provisions that safeguard the rights of injured workers and prevent unfair dismissals based solely on their inability to perform their usual job due to their injury or illness. This blog post will delve into the relevant legal framework outlined in Section 232B of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (WCRA Act) to shed light on employers’ obligations and the protective measures afforded to injured employees.
1. The 12-Month Rule: Protection Against Dismissal
Under the WCRA Act, employers are prohibited from dismissing a worker solely or primarily because they are unfit for employment in their regular position due to a work-related injury or illness. This crucial provision, specified in Section 232B, acts as a safeguard against unfair treatment of injured workers within a specific time frame.
Specifically, employers cannot terminate the employment of an injured worker within 12 months of the date of their injury or illness based solely on their inability to perform their regular job.
Violation of this provision carries severe consequences, with a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units.
2. Returning to the Old Job: The Worker’s Right
In the event of a work-related injury or illness, workers retain the right to request their employer to reinstate them in their former job within 12 months of the incident. To exercise this right, the worker must provide their employer with a medical certificate issued by a qualified doctor, attesting to their fitness to resume their previous role.
2.1 Legal Recourse for Uncooperative Employers
Should an employer refuse to reinstate an injured worker despite their fitness to return, the worker has the option to seek assistance from the Industrial Commission. The worker can enlist the support of their union or industry body representative to navigate this process effectively. By involving the Industrial Commission, the worker can request an order that compels the employer to reinstate them in their former position.
2.2 Industrial Commission Intervention: Resolution and Terms
When the worker’s case for reemployment is brought before the Industrial Commission, it plays a pivotal role in assessing the situation and making an informed decision. If the Industrial Commission deems that the worker is indeed capable of resuming their old job, they have the authority to order the employer to take them back. Additionally, the Commission may establish specific terms and conditions, such as a designated start date, to ensure a fair and seamless transition for both parties involved.
Ascent Lawyers emphasizes the significance of adhering to the legal provisions set forth in Section 232B of the WCRA Act to protect the rights of injured workers. Employers must be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when it comes to handling employees who have suffered work-related injuries or illnesses. By respecting the 12-month rule and providing injured workers with the opportunity to return to their previous roles, employers contribute to fostering a fair and supportive work environment that prioritizes employee well-being.