Written by Workers Compensation Report managing editor Helen Jones.
Qld’s Anti-Discrimination Commission (ADCQ) has recommended the state workers’ compensation law be further amended to achieve “greater clarity” and “understanding” for employers and employees.
ADCQ says it supports a Qld Government proposal to remove prospective employers’ right to obtain job applicants’ w/comp claims histories from the state’s W/Comp Regulator. In its July 27 submission to a parliamentary committee examining a Qld Govt amendment Bill, the cmn also said insurers’ right to refuse to provide w/comp documents “where there is suspicion it is intended for an unlawful purpose” should be restored. Qld Treasurer Curtis Pitt tabled the W/Comp and Rehabilitation (WCAR) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill and explanatory notes in parliament on July 15 (WCR 21/07/15). The Bill was referred to the Finance and Administration Committee (FAC) to consider.
In its submission to FAC’s inquiry into the Bill, ADCQ highlighted “misunderstandings” about prospective workers’ injury and medical condition disclosure obligations. ADCQ said job applicants, on an employer’s request, were obliged only to disclose injuries or medical conditions that existed during the recruitment process. Its experience showed employers and employees misunderstood the obligation “to relate to any injury or medical condition” applicants had “experienced in the past”. That had led to them not being offered jobs and, in some cases, complaints to ADCQ, the cmn said. It noted 64% of complaints ADCQ accepted in 2013-14 were “associated with work”; 35% “alleged impairment discrimination in work”; and 4% alleged “requests for unnecessary information in the work area”.
The cmn recommended s571A to s571C of the WCAR Act be amended to make the limited injury or medical condition disclosure obligation “clearer” for all. S571A to 571C provided a “mechanism” for prospective workers to notify employers, on request, of existing injuries or medical conditions that “might” be aggravated by performing employment duties, it said. However, the three subsections used the word “pre-existing”. The cmn suggested the govt replace “pre-existing” with “existing” or “current”. It also recommended the meaning of pre-existing injury or medical condition be incorporated into the body of the obligation to disclose provision. ADCQ’s “suggested measures” should assist in balancing workers’ and employers’ interests, it said. Workers were interested in “a fair chance” at obtaining employment “even though they may have past or current injuries or medical conditions” – and employers were interested in being able to recruit people who could perform “essential” job elements. The cmn said its “preferred approach” was that a prospective employer request a medical disclosure only after a position was offered to a job applicant. “This then reduces the potential for discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, in the worker not being considered for the position,” the cmn said. It was “more consistent” with Qld Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 objects, purposes and provisions, it said. Written submissions to FAC’s inquiry close at 4pm on August 6 before it’s due to report to parliament on September 4.
Volunteer firies call for equal criteria on cancers
Two early submissions to FAC’s inquiry (above) have asked that rural volunteer firefighters be treated equally under proposed presumptive legislation for 12 scheduled cancers. As the Qld Bill now stands, new provisions would apply to current and former firefighters employed by the Qld Fire and Emergency Services or engaged as volunteer firefighters by the Rural Fire Service. Volunteer firefighters would also need to demonstrate they had attended “at least 150 exposure incidents” over specified qualifying periods of service. In their submissions to FAC, Thuringowa Rural Fire Group and Iona Rural Fire Brigade office holders said cancers didn’t discriminate between employees and volunteers. Both called for deemed disease provisions in the Bill to be made non-discriminatory.
(This story first ran in Workers Compensation Report 1028, 4 August, 2015)
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