Workcover survival kit

Being on workcover is a nightmare! Dealing with your injury,the complex workcover system, your employer, the WorkCover agent, rehabilitation agents, doctors and even lawyers can be mind boggling and very stressful! Here we share few tips that can help you survive WorkCover!

Surviving WorkCover

Dealing with your injury- especially a permanent injury- and its after-effects can be extremely stressful. Negotiating your way around a very complex WorkCover system, dealing with your employer, the WorkCover agent, rehabilitation agents, doctors, so called “independent medical examiners” and even lawyers can be mind boggling and extremely stressful! Below are a few tips and tricks that can help you survive the WorkCover nightmare!

Focus on your health and recovery

Your highest priority should always be your health and to maximise your physical and/or psychological recovery.WorkCover must pay for all reasonable treatment costs. We strongly believe that the  most important issue is to ensure that you are getting the best quality medical treatment possible.

Work injuries hurt in many ways and we believe that every seriously injured worker needs professional psychological support (also read our article about secondary traumatisation of injured workers)

Related blog articles

Have a thorough understanding of your WorkCover entitlements

When you are seriously injured, you will have to make many important decisions about your future. To make the right decisions it will be critical to understand as much as you possibly can about the structure of WorkCover benefits, for example, how they interact with your other employment entitlements, and what all your entitlements really are.

WorkCover is an extremely complex system! The Act of Parliament which governs WorkCover alone is several hundred pages long and quite complicated. Trying to understand just what WorkCover does and does not provide is really important. There are many resources available to help you with this task.

The most detailed information, apart from the Act itself,  is on the WorkSafe website which contains a very detailed publication called the ‘Online Claims Manual‘. This contains detailed instructions from WorkCover to its agents on how to handle claims. It also includes very detailed information about the calculation and payment of WorkCover benefits. Remember this information is written from WorkCover’s perspective only. Nonetheless this can be a useful resource for people who want detailed information.

Try to deal as best you can with WorkCover

Dealing with WorkCover and -especially- your case manager can be extremely stressful.Following a few simple guidelines can make dealing with WorkCover, and your case manager (and rehab providers) a tad easier.

  • The most important thing is that you keep good, written records. For example, if you want to claim travel expenses you need to submit details of all your trips to and from doctors, incl train, bus, tram, taxi and parking receipts. If there is an argument about your weekly payments because WorkCover feel you are not looking for work, keeping a record of all your attempts to obtain work can put you in a far better position.
  • We advice all injured workers to only communicate/correspond in writing, either via email or via letter/fax. You do have the right to refuse telephone contact and you also have the right to request that all correspondence/communications go through your legal representative, one of your doctors or an advocate. You can even put a “restraining” order on your harassing, bullying and/or intimidating case manager (see our workcover tips collection for sample letters).
  • It’s also very important that you keep a copy of all your documents. For example, when you receive a certificate of incapacity, the original should be provided to your employer but ensure you make a copy for your own records.
  • Ask under the Freedom of Information Act or the Workers Compensation Act, for a copy of all your medical reports, including independent medical examination reports.
  • When submitting your medical certificates ensure that you complete the section on the back of the certificate about your work activities. If you don’t it will delay your payments and the form will be sent back to you. It may  also be useful to try and ensure that your certificates expire on a Saturday or Sunday to make it easier for WorkCover or your employer to calculate your weekly entitlement. This enables weekly benefits to be paid in whole weeks.
  • Sometimes (well dare we say “often’) the decisions that a case manager makes can be extremely frustrating. Losing your cool can backfire as you will run the risk of being type cast as difficult or as suffering from a psychological problem! Whilst you are entitled to acquire an explanation of a case manager’s decision and to discuss the decision freely with them, but it is important to ‘keep your cool’ with the case manager. (also see things that annoy the sh*t out of case managers)
  • If you don’t agree with a decision from your case manager, and it appears that they’re npt adhering to the “guidelines” (including the case manager standards of practice) you can ask them to identify their superior (aka Team Leader) and request to discuss the matter with them. If you still disagree with the decision, you should dispute the decision by referring the matter to conciliation. Many WorkCover decisions are overturned at conciliation. Note that you will need a “rejection letter” from your insurer regarding a particular issue (i.e. denial home help,ceasing physio, denial surgery, denial transport etc).
  • If you believe that your claim has been seriously mishandled, of course you can complain to the State Ombudsman. This can be a major step so it is important to ensure that your attempts to resolve the issue through other channels have failed (i.e. formal complaint to the insurer, formal complaint to WorkSafe etc).

Dealing with rehab and return to work issues.

The WorkCover system is – in theory- strongly committed to rehabilitating injured workers and providing assistance to enable a return to work. In fact you will soon notice that your case manager wants only one thing: to get you back to work at any cost!

Rehabilitation, however, means different things to different parties. Some employers are genuinely committed to rehabilitation and a proper return to work, however many (if not most) others, have no interest in returning an injured worker to meaningful work and will provide only minimal assistance in order to keep WorkCover happy (and to avoid penalties such as premium rises). These employers will often use phrases like “we don’t have light duties” or “don’t come back without a full clearance certificate”.

Many employers also make only meaningless or demeaning work available. Sadly, in these cases, a return to work can be like a ‘guerilla warfare’ which is, ultimately, aimed at sacking the injured worker.

Chances are you have seen how your employer has treated other people who have been injured at work.

Following some simple tips may make the extraordinary difficult situation of returning to work, a little easier:

  • It is very important to try and understand as soon as possible whether or not you will have any capacity for work in the future. In the early stages of your injury, it can be very difficult to work out what your long-term capacity for work is going to be. It can also be difficult to assess what commitment (if any) your employer will make to assist any return to work. It’s important to discuss this with your treating doctors. Questions to ask include: Do you have a capacity to enable you to perform your current work? If you can’t perform your current work – what kind of restrictions will there be in the work you do? If you have to change the nature of your work- what type of retraining will you need? Don’t rush into making any decisions about your future – you need to have an answer to all those questions first. For example, there’s no point changing careers or requesting re-training if you are likely to completely recover from your injury. Also, for example, if you had a desk job (i.e. accountant) and you have a serious leg injury, there should be no need to retrain as you may still be able to undertake desk work with a leg injury; however if you are a nurse and you have broken your shoulder in a permanent manner, you will need to consider retraining as hands-on work in a ward will no longer be possible for you.
  • WorkCover will become extremely “proactive” (read harassing) about returning an injured worker to work. The case manager will -very quickly- send you a list of three occupational rehabilitation providers in order for you to choose one to “assist” you in returning to work. This contact can often seem premature and somewhat pushy in the stages of recovery. This might be based solely on the uneducated views of the case manager or on the assessment of WorkCover’s doctors (aka IMEs) who may have a less sympathetic view or may be frankly biased about the effect of the injury on you. If it is likely, or even possible, that you will have some capacity for work in the future it can be very important to choose a rehabilitation provider carefully and communicate them your willingness to look at return to work options when your doctor considers it appropriate.
  • It is extremely important never to refuse an offer of rehabilitation or alternative employment (suitable duties) outright, as this could be used against you to terminate your WorkCover benefits at a later date. The best approach is to indicate your willingness to consider a return to work plan or proposal after a discussion with your treating doctors about the issue.
  •  Often, a rehabilitation provider will delay any consideration of looking at alternative employments or training courses as the focus of the rehabilitation consultant is usually and solely on returning you to your former workplace. This may be inappropriate or a short-term fix! It can, therefore, be very useful for you to identify the jobs you think you may be suitable for, and what training courses may be necessary to become skilled for them. Having done this, you can then discuss these options with your rehabilitation provider. You can formally request, preferably in writing, that they approve specific training courses. Remember, WorkCover’s response to training courses is likely to be affected by the length and cost of any course. The longer or more expensive the course – the less likely they are to approve it. If you were to identify a reasonable course that you wish to undertake which is then rejected by WorkCover, you are fully entitled to refer the matter to conciliation or resolution of the dispute.
  • If you do return to work make sure that your progress is properly monitored and assessed. If you return to work and are having continued difficulties you should attend your doctor and explain what those difficulties are. This is very important because the doctor’s notes will record the fact that you are having difficulty returning to work, which will make it easier to obtain a weekly payment if you are again forced to stop work. If you have difficulties in returning to work either because the return to work program is not appropriate or because your employer is not adhering to the return to work program, you should contact your rehabilitation provider and relay your concerns to them about the situation. Remember to keep a note about the details of your employer’s failure to adhere to the return to work plan and your discussions with the rehabilitation provider. If necessary, you should ask the rehabilitation provider to contact your doctor or to attend at your workplace to meet with you and your employer to discuss the matter.
  • If your employer is refusing to provide appropriate work, failing to adhere to a return to work program or in some other way sabotaging your return to work, you can report the employer to a return to work Inspector at WorkSafe. WorkSafe can, in some circumstances, prosecute an employer. However, before prosecuting an employer, WorkSafe will attempt to negotiate a resolution of the situation.
  • Again, keep a copy of all documents, including emails and try to keep all communications in writing (email is OK). If you had a “meeting”, always follow up in writing (i.e. email) and confirm what was said and decided at that meeting.
Get legal advice/representation sooner rather than later

When you suffer a permanent work injury, it is likely to have many financial and life changing effects. It is important that you obtain legal advice so that you can be prepared for some of the issues that may emerge as your condition progresses. If you obtain legal advice early, you will be better prepared to deal with many of the challenges that can emerge in the course of your claim. Also, your insurer and case manager (and employer) are likely to treat you with a little more respect if you are legally represented.

Almost all injury lawyers offer an initial free consultation – use it. Most operate on a no win no fee basis.

Make sure you select a reputable lawyer / law firm specialised in personal injuries.

If you don’t know where to start we suggest you give Zaparas Lawyers a go. They’re the only law firm that we support and fully trust, because they really do care, and are not $ sharks! You can always switch over to them from another lawyer or law firm!

More workcover information

For more tips and tricks, please visit our “share a  workcover tip“.

There are hundreds of great and useful articles on this site – use the search box and type keywords, such as for example “return to work”; “conciliation” etc; or use the blog’s categories (tags) or blog archives page . Also ensure you view the “resources” section (in the menu).


Good luck!

Remember, if you need help with your claim, you can post your query under “need help with your workcover claim” page 🙂

Updated 5 June 2019

7 Responses to “Workcover survival kit”

  1. Hi, I came across your site as I was trying to find information on a IME I had visited the other day. I have seen four other IMEs so far but this one had me at 54 crying with his comments and innuendo. He insulted my surgeon whom I actually work with at my Hospital and in the end said there is no need to get upset. I have lodged a complaint with Work cover about him but at the same time I am scared that I have, scared of retribution ad how it will affect me and my case. I am back to my full hours of work but I am on restrictions, I do not receive any money from them the only thing I have now is my Physio that I see once a week maybe twice if I am really sore. I need my physio to help me keep working otherwise I would not be able to work. So I am scared at this point for making the complaint but he should not be allowed to speak to me that way or belittle me that way. My husband is in the ADF in QLD at present and when I rang him he was furious that I had been treated this way, I was so upset then having to drive in peak traffic was a nightmare. I have a second review with an IME next week and I am really quite nervous about going and I have no one to come with me, so hopefully the next one is a bit nicer

  2. Where are the [ State or Federal Protections for any workers ], this al is sounding like [ bloody America- use and abuse of workers].
    And then they massacre many, except employers,please tell me for those whom have long term injuries, added to by employers who didnt give a toss, that these poor sods, have someone, in their defence?

    What is the [ State Medical Ombudsman], doing just sitting awaiting his fat pay check, and doing nothing,I hope not,originally any politician, got in for you and me,[ to serve the public], now in the 21st Century, they have changed it, to the[Public serve the Politicians], it sucks.

    Injutred workers all states, need to put their views to media, and a convoy of community vehicles to Canberra, and a speech of concerns on the steps on the new federal parliment, and watch all sides come out, and then it’s injured workers, get together, as was in the 1980’s.

    Bash to Federal |parliment,for Housing concerns, read it from the archives, of newspapers for eacvh respective state that reads this post.

    A comment of [Deceased senator Don Chip- To keep the bastards Honest], also applies to everyday issues,such as injured workers.
    Don’t take this crap lying down,only takes 1. to start the snowball
    Gullian [ Victoria ] Eureka- We of the Southern Cross. stand up against the bastards, whilst ya still live, even in pain fight!!! ]

  3. It concerns me our names are displayed here are these protected. Could you delete my first post and I will do a fake one and get back to you. I just read your previous post.

  4. Finally a place I can come and talk where others are experiencing the same thing I thought I was the only one. Can the Insurer choose someone agent to do a Independent Work Assessment Report and hire them to become the rehab provider to. I have a lawyer.

  5. I discovered your website by sheer luck. I am so glad that I did as it has been of enormous benefit, thank you. I am sorry to hear others going through the same ordeal as what I am, however it is also a relief that it is not just you that is been treated unjustly.
    Mine is a very long winded story which commenced when I was injured at work 9 years ago, lodged a work cover claim and it was accepted. Required shoulder surgery 12 months later due to original injury once again claim accepted, though put under new claim. Now 9 years down the track I discover that my ongoing symptoms because of the original injury required me to have nerve surgery. The surgery was done prior to approval as the longer I had continued to ignore it the more irreversible the nerve damage would be. Needless to say proceeded without approval and now case knocked back and awaiting conciliation. I am absolutely disgusted by the insurance company, the selective biased and limited information that is provided to the IME. Fortunate for me I brought copies of abnormal MRI CT nerve conduction studies. The “independent statement” interview lasted 3 traumatic hours. Mine is a physical claim, the woman that “interviewed” me was indescribable, cold heartless, questions totally irrelevant to my claim were asked, ie partners remuneration etc. I was informed that a stress claim interview can last 6 hours! Because my claim has been rejected, my workplace have know that it will go to conciliation. The informed me that they do not have to provide me with alternate duties as I am not work cover, more or less as they do not want to loose me they will allow me to stay until I get clearance! I know that their objective was for me to drop my case, I had admitted that I did not want to go down the work cover track as I found it enormously stressful (stupid me for admitting it). I was also informed by them (manager and injury manager) that based on the IME report, I had a very poor long term prognosis; my surgeon and Physio had not informed me that this would be the case and needless to say I was very upset to hear it and especially by them. Retrospectively I should have taken a witness to this “interview” however it was sprung on me and I was not provided the opportunity too. I guess that I have been naive in my belief that if you are an honest hard working employee that people would treat you the way you would like to be treated, unfortunately not so.

    • @Elke – sorry to read about your all too familiar ordeal.

      We note that you marked this comment as private – which means that only Admin can read it and nobody else. Is this what you want? You can unprivatise your comment, so everybody can read it, however we suggest that you use a fake name or nickname as well as a fake or alias Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo email address and alter some identifying descriptions just so that your privacy is maintained at all times.

read-before-u-commentThis is a statement pointing you to our seriously injured but esteemed and honourable Social Networking Sites Warning and our comment policy. A must read in the context of a very adversarial workcover system! Remember to mention in which state you reside if you seek advice.

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