Workers’ compensation


Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that supports workers who have been injured or become ill at work. Support can include one-off lump sum payments, income support, and/or medical and rehabilitation expenses.

There are separate workers’ compensation schemes in each state and territory, which set out coverage, eligibility criteria, entitlements and obligations.

If you are injured at work, or just need to know if you are covered, contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!


Up until 1900 if you were injured at work, it was tough luck. The costs of work-related injury were almost entirely borne by workers and their families, and access to compensation was confined to common law, which demanded proof of employer negligence.

By the 1920s, workers were only required to establish that their injuries were work related to quantify for compensation, with no obligation to establish employer negligence.

But up until the 1970s the system continued to favour employers. While dependents were entitled to a lump sum if a worker was killed, injured workers received only 50% of weekly income and no contribution to medical costs.

Legislation also largely overlooked female workers. It was only in the 1970s that terminology was changed to include them.

Weekly compensation payments had increased to 80% of normal earnings in NSW in 1971 and other states gradually followed. By the late 1970s it had increased to 100%.

Since then, there has been a preoccupation by employers and governments to cut costs, ongoing attempts to erode your entitlements.

The AWU has continued to resist these cuts. It’s just another reason to join your union!


Don’t ever try to disguise the fact that you are injured. You have the right to make a workers’ compensation claim.

Likewise, don’t let anyone discourage you from following the correct procedures with workers’ compensation, such as letting them talk you into taking annual leave or sick leave to avoid having a lost-time injury in your workplace.

If you are injured at work, seek first aid or see a doctor, then follow these basic steps:

  • Notify your employer in writing via an accident book, email or other means as soon as you become ill or have been diagnosed.
  • Visit your doctor, not the company’s doctor. You have a right to the doctor of your choice. Your employer is not entitled to come along to this appointment. If you want a support person, take a friend or family member.

At your appointment:

  • Tell your work history to the doctor.
  • Get a medical certificate.
  • Get your doctor to fill out the workers’ compensation forms for your relevant state, territory or the Commonwealth.
  • Fill out your section and provide the completed claim form to your employer along with any medical certificate. This can be provided by email.
  • If your employer refuses or delays notifying the insurer, do it yourself. Some states and territories have online notification/reporting systems. The AWU may be able to help.

Keep copies of everything, including details of:

  • When and how you were injured or exposed to a hazard;
  • Your symptoms and when you first experienced them;
  • When you told your employer;
  • When you visited the doctor;
  • When your employer or their insurer spoke with you, either in person or over the phone.

These are only general tips.

So if you are injured, speak to your AWU delegate, or join the union!


If your employer or their representatives does insist you see their doctor, it is essential you get that request in writing. Tell your employer you are getting legal advice, and contact the AWU.

Do not let an employer representative attend your medical appointment. Medical appointments are private.

If a case conference is organised, speak to your AWU delegate and make sure you have a support person or union representative with you, always.

You are under no obligation to participate in a diversionary employer injury scheme, such as an employer provided physiotherapy, in lieu of workers compensation.

You also have the right to:

  • Have a Health and Safety Representative and/or union delegate with you when talking with your employer about your injury or return to work.
  • Safe and meaningful work while injured, if you are able to work. This might mean alternative tasks to your usual ones.
  • A return to the same job you had before you were injured, when you can.
  • In serious cases, you can also sue your employer for damages in court.

Above all, talk to your AWU delegate, and if you are not a member, join the union!


In general, any employee injured at work has a right to worker’s compensation.

But access can depend on whether you are an employee or an independent contractor.

Many workers engaged as independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation and must take out their own income and injury insurance.

Not sure if you are covered? Contact the AWU, or join the union!


Workers’ compensation is complex and varies state to state, with constantly changing rules.

The AWU is here to help members help on their workers’ compensation claims.

So if you are unsure of your rights, if your claim is refused, payments cease, or you just need advice, contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!

Be a part of our community.

Join the AWU.

Stronger together.


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