Service industries cover a broad range of occupations, including hairdressing, nursing, aged care and hospitality.
When you work in a service industry, you may be exposed to many different risks, depending on your job.
If you are injured while doing your job due to someone else’s negligence, and you can’t work as a result, you may be eligible for a workers compensation (or WorkCover) payout while you recover.
This payout will help you cover your lost income and medical costs while you recover, and may even provide a lump sum payout if you have suffered a permanent impairment.
An employer’s duty of care
No matter the industry, your employer is legally required to provide a safe workplace for you. This includes providing:
- a safe physical and mental environment for you to work in
- the instructions and equipment you need to do your job safely
- adequate training and information about your job
- an appropriate level of supervision.
During the pandemic, employers must also follow government guidelines and advice to protect your health and safety, including providing instructions on:
- current government requirements
- good hygiene
- physical distancing
- cleaning practices
- staying home when sick
- getting vaccinated.
They must also have a regular cleaning and sanitising routine in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria.
Accidents and injuries in service industries
The types of accidents that can occur in a service industry vary as widely as the types of businesses within it.
Hairdressing industry accidents can be caused by:
- exposure to chemicals or products with hazardous ingredients, like shampoos, dyes and moisturisers
- physical issues from standing all day or repetitive arm and hand movements
- slip and fall injuries due to hair and liquids on the floor
- cuts and grazes from sharp equipment.
Aged and health care has a wide range of risks, including:
- back, neck and shoulder injuries from lifting and moving patients, beds, trolleys and wheelchairs
- occupational violence from patients – an issue that is unfortunately on the rise
- psychological issues due to violence, patient death and other causes
- slip and fall injuries due to a poorly designed workplace.
Hospitality workers are always at risk due to dangers in their workplace, including:
- slip and fall injuries due to slippery kitchen floors; heavy boxes of inventory; and furniture left in the way
- burns from ovens, stoves, hot plates and coffee machines
- cuts and gashes from sharp knives, meat grinders and other sharp implements
- physical injuries from lifting and carrying heavy boxes, furniture and other items.
Some of these injuries are temporary, while others can get worse over time and continue to impact your life in the long term.
You may need to take time off to get treatment and recover. This can affect your ability to make an income, especially as many people in service industries are casual workers.
If you have suffered an injury in your service industry occupation and you can’t work as a result, you may be eligible for a compensation payout.
Workers compensation for aged care, hairdressing or hospitality industries can be complex, so we recommend contacting a qualified workers compensation lawyer to learn about your options and make sure you get everything you’re entitled to.
Understanding workers compensation
In Australia, employers are required to have workers compensation insurance, which provides payment to employees if they are injured or get sick because of their work. (In states such as Queensland and NSW, workers compensation is also known as WorkCover.)
These weekly payments cover:
- lost wages while you can’t work (weekly payments)
- medical and rehabilitation costs
- travel related to your treatment or claim, such as taxis and parking fees
- permanent injury or delayed injuries
- funeral costs (if a worker has died).
If you are left permanently impaired due to your injury, you might also be entitled to a lump sum payment.
Workers compensation applies to casual workers, as well as full-time and part-time employees – and many employees in service industries work on a casual basis.
As well as being covered while you’re at work doing your job, workers compensation covers you when you’re:
- working from home
- on a scheduled break
- travelling to and from work
- travelling for work.
It also covers you if you work for a service business that’s on the road, not just in a physical building, such as a mobile coffee van or hairdressing business. It also covers aged care workers who visit and care for their elderly clients in their own homes.
Who isn’t covered by workers compensation
Worker’s compensation or WorkCover applies only to you – the person injured or ill due to a work-related accident.
It doesn’t cover any associated damage to your car or property. It also doesn’t cover any non-worker who was with you, such as a family member who was visiting. They would need to make their own personal injury claim.
What to do after a workplace accident
If you are injured or get sick due to your work in aged care, hairdressing or hospitality, the first thing to do of course is get medical attention. Describe to your doctor exactly what happened so they can make a record of it.
Then report the injury to your employer. Do this in writing and make sure you clearly describe the injury and how it occurred. Even a minor injury can get worse over time, so it’s important to put it on the record from the day it occurred.
Then you need to make a workers compensation claim. You should start this process as soon as possible, as there are timeframes for applying. These are different across different states.
You should also consider getting help from a service industry accident lawyer like our expert team at Main Lawyers. Workers compensation is a complicated area of law, and a qualified WorkCover lawyer can make sure everything is covered.
Note: If your employer is self-insured, you usually need to make a claim with them directly. If you are in this situation, we advise you to get professional advice on how to proceed.
Recordkeeping for a WorkCover claim
You will have to prove your claim that your employer was partly or totally responsible for the accident occurring. So it’s very important to keep all relevant records from the first day of your injury or illness.
This could include emails about any issues in the workplace that you feel caused the accident, as well as medical certificates, witness statements, photos and any other relevant paperwork.
How your compensation claim is decided
When you make a claim, the insurer considers a range of factors to decide whether to approve your claim.
First they have to determine that you are a ‘worker’ by law and actually work for your employer. (For example, an external contractor may not be considered a worker.) Additionally, the insurer needs to confirm that your injury or illness was related to your job, not caused by something outside of work.
They also need to consider whether you contributed to the accident at all by, for example, not following instructions or breaching safety protocols. However, even if you did partly cause the injury or illness, you might have a reduced claim if your employer was also negligent in some way.
They will then consider the extent of your injuries and how they may affect you going forward. If your injury or illness is likely to affect you in the longer term, your compensation payment is likely to be higher.
If WorkCover denies your claim
Sometimes, a workers compensation claim can be rejected. There are many reasons why WorkCover may deny a claim, including:
- Your employer disagrees with how the accident occurred.
- Your injury or condition isn’t work-related (i.e. it occurred outside work or was caused mainly by a pre-existing injury or condition).
- You haven’t provided the required information to prove your claim.
- You haven’t met the required time frame for reporting the issue to your employer or making a claim.
- The compensation amount you’re requesting doesn’t match the extent of your injury or condition.
If WorkCover denies your claim, they’ll give you an explanation in writing. If you disagree with their decision and believe you’re entitled to compensation for your injury, you may be able to appeal. You have three months to appeal from the date on the decision notice.
Sometimes WorkCover may deny your claim several times before they approve it. This situation can get quite complex, so we recommend getting professional help from an experienced workers compensation lawyer.
Want to know more?
At Main Lawyers, our workers compensation lawyers specialise in getting you everything you’re entitled to if you’re injured at work.
We’ve dealt with many types of accidents in aged care, hairdressing and hospitality, and can help you through the sometimes complex process. We also have a strong track record of success and will work hard to get your case resolved as soon as possible.
If you can’t come to our office, we can come to you in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast. Contact us for a free, no-obligation discussion.