WorkCover Queensland Protects Unpaid Interns from Workplace Injury

WorkCover Queensland Protects Unpaid Interns from Workplace Injury

Published on 27 July 2020
Last updated on 18 March 2024

Imagine this: Sarah, a dedicated and bright student, lands her dream internship at a prestigious firm. Enthusiastic and ready to learn, she dives into her role, contributing her skills and ideas. However, one unfortunate day at work, Sarah sustains an injury, and suddenly, her world turns upside down. Faced with mounting medical bills and uncertainty about her rights, Sarah feels lost and vulnerable. This scenario, unfortunately, isn’t rare among unpaid interns in Queensland, who often find themselves in a legal limbo regarding workplace injuries.

But there’s a silver lining. As of 1 July 2020, a pivotal shift in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 has redefined the landscape for unpaid interns like Sarah. This change is not just a legal update; it’s a beacon of hope, ensuring that interns are no longer left unprotected. In this blog, we will explore these groundbreaking changes and what they mean for unpaid interns in Queensland. Because when it comes to workplace safety, knowledge isn’t just power — it’s a shield.

A yellow hard hat in front of a person sitting on the floor with text Injured as an Intern? Learn How to Claim Your Compensation!

1. A Call 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. Your Rights to Compensation as an Unpaid Intern in Queensland

As an unpaid intern, 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. What Counts as Work-Related Injury?

A work-related injury includes any personal harm occurring during employment if the employment significantly contributes to the injury.

This definition encompasses:

  • 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. Recognizing Various Types of Injuries

  • 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

5. Understanding 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. Coverage Extends to Home-Based Work

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 is Not Covered?

  • 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. The Past Scenario for Unpaid Interns

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.

9. Why This Change?

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. Steps to Take if Injured at Work

  • 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 detailed information, visit:

Unpaid work – FairWork Australia

WorkSafe – Unpaid interns now entitled to workers’ compensation

Disclaimer: Ascent Lawyers owns all copyright in the text. This article is of a general nature and should not be regarded as legal advice or relied on for assistance in any particular circumstance or emergency situation. To obtain legal advice in relation to your own circumstances, please contact us for consultation.

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