Workers' compensation

Workers’ compensation provides a safety net for workers injured in the course of their employment. It is a form of insurance paid for by employers to support people injured at work or because of their work. Support may include one-off lump sum payments, income replacement, medical and rehabilitation expenses and support for workers to return to work.

Latest news

New workers’ compensation coverage paper

Safe Work Australia has developed a paper on workers’ compensation coverage. 

The Workers’ compensation coverage paper analyses the complex nature of workers compensation coverage in Australia. The paper uses case studies including the gig economy and the agriculture industry, to illustrate the constraints and gaps within existing workers’ compensation coverage arrangements. The paper considers whether current workers’ compensation coverage arrangements in Australia remain fit for purpose.
This is the first publication in a series of discussion papers on current and emerging workers’ compensation issues.

View the Workers’ compensation coverage paper

New Workers’ compensation and the gig economy fact sheet

The gig economy is a growing part of Australia’s workforce with over 100 platforms operating within Australia. This fact sheet  has been developed to encourage gig workers to enquire into their workers’ compensation entitlements and to inform platforms of the general obligations under workers’ compensation law for employers

View the Workers’ compensation and the gig economy fact sheet

Advice may vary between jurisdictions – so it’s important to contact the workers’ compensation authority in your state or territory for more specific information.

Workers’ Compensation in Australia

Workers’ compensation helps lower the cost and impact of work-related injury and illness through:

  • replacing income
  • paying medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • permanent impairment payments 
  • death entitlements.

Each state and territory has its own scheme and an authority that oversees it. The Commonwealth has 3 schemes.

Generally, the state or territory where a person works covers them. If they’re a Commonwealth employee, the Commonwealth covers them.

Each scheme has different approaches to:

  • coverage
  • benefits
  • return to work  
  • self-insurance
  • common law
  • dispute resolution
  • cross-border arrangements.

What we do

Because schemes can differ, as the national policy body, our role is to:

  • develop, evaluate and, if necessary, revise national workers’ compensation policies and supporting strategies
  • develop proposals to improve workers’ compensation arrangements, and to promote national consistency in such arrangements, for example through the COMPARE Project 
  • collect, analyse and publish relevant data; and undertake and publish research to inform the development and evaluation of workers' compensation policies and strategies, for example the Deemed Diseases in Australia 2015 
  • collaborate with the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, and other national and international bodies, on workers’ compensation policy matters of national importance
  • develop and implement national education and communication strategies and initiatives: to support improvements in workers' compensation arrangements, for example the National Return to work strategy

Deemed diseases

All jurisdictions in Australia provide some form of workers’ compensation scheme.

In the past, workers had to establish there was a causal connection between a particular work exposure and the disease their claim was based on.

This was fine when there was significant uncertainty as to whether a particular exposure caused the disease. However, where there was strong evidence of a causal connection there seemed little point requiring every worker to prove that connection.

To streamline access to workers’ compensation, improve fairness and clarity, and reduce the chance claims could be disputed, we commissioned a report to review the latest scientific research to inform policy and develop an Australian list of scheduled diseases and guidance material.

The Deemed Diseases in Australia report was published on 31 August 2015.

  • The deemed diseases approach reverses the onus of proof when a claim is made, but does not guarantee the success of a claim. The worker still has to demonstrate they have had sufficient occupational exposure to the relevant exposure.

Criteria used to develop the list of deemed diseases

  • Strong causal link between the disease and occupational exposure.
  • Clear diagnostic criteria—there had to be little question about whether or not the claimant really had the disease that was the subject of the claim.
  • The disease comprises a considerable proportion of the cases of that disease in the overall population or in an identifiable subset of the population.

Permanent impairment

When someone sustains an injury it may result in a permanent impairment.

A prerequisite to determining the level of permanent impairment is the understanding that it shouldn’t be decided until the claimant has improved as much as is possible; that is when their impairment has become stable or isn’t likely to improve despite medical treatment.

  • In addition to the assessment principles laid out in the AMA Guides, scheme legislation also provides substantial guidance on how to determine whether or not impairment is permanent.

In 2013, we made recommendations to the Ministerial Council on nationally consistent arrangements to assess permanent impairment, which were agreed to by the

majority of jurisdictions in early-2014.

As a result we developed a national permanent impairment guide , as well as developing a training package for medical practitioners who want to become permanent impairment assessors. Both the national permanent impairment guide and the training material will be reviewed in 2022.

For access to the national permanent impairment guide and the training package please contact info@swa.gov.au

Funding for workers compensation

To meet their legal and operational duties, schemes can be:

  • centrally funded – through a single public insurer who underwrites their own schemes
  • privately underwritten – the private sector provides most (if not all) functions through approved insurance companies and eligible self-insuring employees
  • hybrid – where the public and private sector are both involved.

Supporting information

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Comparing workers' compensation scheme performance
Comparing workers' compensation schemes
Workers' compensation