What happens when unpaid interns suffer work-related injuries in Queensland?

What happens when unpaid interns suffer work-related injuries in Queensland?

1. Calling out to unpaid interns!

  • Are you performing unpaid work for a firm or company without payment of wages?
  • Are you interning for a business to gain practical experience or to seek to obtain a qualification?
  • Would you be a worker if the work you performed was for the payment of wages?

If you answered YES to the questions above, read on! We have good news for you!


2. Comforting news for you!

You will be entitled to compensation for work-related injuries! This means the medical costs of your injuries due to your employment will be covered.

From 1 July 2020, unpaid interns are now considered to be ‘workers’ under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act) and thus entitled to compensation for work-related injuries.


3. But what is a work-related injury?

A personal injury arising out of, or in the course of, employment if the employment is a significant factor to the injury is a work-related injury.

Still unsure?

Let us break it down for you:

  • Injuries that happen at work
  • Injuries sustained when you are travelling to and from work
  • Injuries sustained while you are on break from work
  • Injuries sustained when you are travelling for work or visiting other workplaces or sites for the purposes of your job


4. Types of injuries can include:

  • Physical injuries
    • eg. Deep cuts, fractures, burns, industrial deafness
  • Psychiatric or psychological disorders
    • eg. Anxiety or depression
  • Diseases
  • Aggravation of pre-existing condition
  • Death from an injury or disease

What happens when unpaid interns suffer work-related injuries in Queensland?

5. What is workers compensation?

Workers compensation is a form of insurance payment to employees if they are injured at work or become sick due to their work.

Workers compensation includes payments to employees to cover their:

  • wages while they’re not fit for work
  • medical expenses and rehabilitation


6. Working from home?

Did you know that employees may be covered while working from home as well?

But such injuries must arise out of, or in the course of, employment, and the employment is a significant contributing factor to the injury.

Employees may be covered for injuries sustained while working from home and on a recess break. Each claim to WorkCover will be reviewed on individual facts.


7. Who will not be considered an ‘unpaid intern’ under the new provisions?

  • Paid interns – but do not worry, you would generally already be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation policy as a ‘worker’
  • Persons providing unpaid assistance as a favour
  • Any person who is a:
    • Volunteer with a non-profit organisation or a religious, charitable, or benevolent organisation
    • School student on work experience or
    • Vocational placement through a registered training organisation.

Example: If you are a student who is interning at a business to meet course requirements, you will not be considered an ‘unpaid intern’.


8. What was it like for unpaid interns before 1 July 2020?

Unpaid interns who were injured and can prove fault must rely on the employer’s public liability insurance. Additionally, unless the injury is caused by the negligence of another party, they must independently provide their own coverage for injuries sustained on journeys to and from work or recess breaks.

What happens when unpaid interns suffer work-related injuries in Queensland?

9. Why the new inclusion?

It is recognised that although many interns perform work for the benefit or an employer that may be performed by a paid employee, few have the same protections of a paid employee, including workers’ compensation coverage.

This new inclusion of unpaid interns in the workers’ compensation scheme was thus recommended in by the 2018 five-year review of the operation of Queensland’s worker’s compensation scheme.


10. Are you an employer of unpaid interns?

Do note that for the 2019–2020 year, if you engage unpaid interns, you will need to declare the number of unpaid interns in your workplace during the 2020–2021 policy renewal.

The upfront premium for the 2020-2021 year will not be charged to employers engaging unpaid interns. However, any claims costs, such as wages and medical expenses, will be taken into account as claims experience when calculating premiums.


11. Other amendments to the Act which commenced on 1 July 2020 include:

  • Requirements for self-insured employers to report injuries and payments made to workers to their insurer.
  • Employers must provide details of their rehabilitation and return-to-work coordinators to their insurer.

Interested to find out key recommendations which commenced on 30 October 2019? View it here.


12. Injured at work? Do the following!

  • Seek medical assistance and get a Work Capacity Certificate;
  • Tell your employer about your injury and provide them with your Work Capacity Certificate as soon as possible;
  • Lodge your claim, including your work capacity certificate with WorkCover Queensland as soon as possible;
  • If your employer is self-insured, contact your employer as soon as possible;
  • Start your workplace rehabilitation as soon as possible, and
  • Please remember to keep copies of all documents relating to your injury and claim!

Ascent Lawyers has expert workers’ compensation lawyers who can help you determine your rights and bring a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf and are able to provide “No Win No Fee” service for eligible claims. If you have suffered injuries from a workplace-related incident, please contact 07 3532 6982 for a Free Consultation.

For more information, please take a look at the following links

Unpaid work – FairWork Australia

WorkSafe – Unpaid interns now entitled to workers’ compensation



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Special notice: This article is for informational purposes only and cannot be regarded as legal advice. Please contact us for specific advice tailored to your situation.

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