Late last year the Queensland government made some significant changes to the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. One particular change that employers should be aware of is that employers may now ask a prospective employee to disclose any pre-existing injury or medical condition that they believe or should suspect would be aggravated by the duties of the position applied for.
Further, the employer is entitled to access a prospective employee’s claims history. The request must be in writing and the prospective employer needs to provide the prospective employee with information about the nature of the duties involved in the job. They also need to advise the prospective employee that if they do not comply with the request, or supply false or misleading information, they will not be entitled to compensation or damages under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 for any event that aggravates the non-disclosed pre-existing injury.
The prospective employer may also apply to the Workers’ Compensation Regulator for a copy of the prospective worker’s claims history. The application needs to be in the prescribed form and requires the prospective employee’s consent. This information can only be used by the prospective employer for the purpose of considering that person’s application for employment.
Whilst these changes will definitely be beneficial to employers, employers need to be mindful that they still need to comply with discrimination laws and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) when considering a prospective employee’s application for employment. If a prospective employee discloses a pre-existing injury and they can establish that the employer has discriminated against them based on their knowledge of that pre-existing injury the employer may be liable to pay compensation.
Employers will also need to take account of a possible increased exposure to negligence claims in circumstances where the employee has made disclosure of pre-existing injuries or conditions. If an employer has knowledge that the employee suffers from a pre-existing injury this may give rise to a special or higher duty of care to that employee than it would otherwise owe as a result of being furnished with that knowledge.
Before making any changes to their employment practices based on these changes it is recommended that expert advice be sought regarding the above matters.