Independent Contractors and Workplace Injuries

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If you are an independent contractor who has been injured at work, you may be wondering if you are entitled to the same workers’ compensation benefits as the full-time, part-time and casual employees at the organisation. There is a slightly different approach when independent contractors are injured. Here’s what you should know.

Workers’ compensation in Queensland

By law, all employers in Queensland must have workers’ compensation insurance which covers their employees. This cover is usually taken out with WorkCover Queensland, and injured workers will be covered for their lost wages and medical costs if they sustain an injury while they are undertaking their work. 

Conversely, independent contractors are not typically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when they suffer an injury during the course of their work.

Are there any circumstances under which an independent contractor will be eligible for workers’ compensation?

To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Queensland, a person needs to be categorised as a ‘worker’ within the definition found in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld). This means someone who:

  • works under a contract; and
  • in relation to the work, is an employee for the purpose of assessment for PAYG withholding.

It is possible for an independent contractor to fall within the definition of a ‘worker’ and therefore be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Typically the overall employment agreement will be looked at, and other rights and obligations afforded to the contractor under the working arrangement will be considered when determining whether the relationship is one of employer and employee or employer and independent contractor. Some of these factors include whether the contractor’s services are provided as part of a business, how they are paid (e.g. via invoicing or through payroll), whether they have direct reports who are employed by the entity and whether they work exclusively for the entity.

An example of when it might be determined that someone in an independent contractor is it they have their own business and are providing services to an entity as part of that business for a quoted price, using their own equipment and tools. Whereas someone who is paid for the time they work, is not able to make their own hours and is supplied with tools and equipment to carry out the job may be entitled to workers’ compensation in the event they suffer a work-related injury.

What steps should an injured worker take?

Within six months of the date of their injury, an injured worker must lodge an Application for Compensation with WorkCover, even if they are unsure about whether they are entitled to compensation.

If an application is rejected it can still be reviewed, but the worker should seek legal advice immediately to ensure they stay within the strict deadlines in place for the review.

What options does an injured worker have if they are not entitled to workers compensation?

If an injured worker is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits they may be entitled to pursue a claim for damages under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld). To make a claim, the worker must be able to establish that the entity responsible for engaging their services also acted negligently and caused their injuries. This option can work out to be more beneficial in some cases, as it provides the worker with access to greater damages and has different rules associated with legal costs attached to pursuing the claim.

If you are an independent contractor and you have been injured in the workplace, you should seek the advice of a worker’s compensation lawyer who can help you put together a strong claim. Our lawyers in Cairns are experienced in managing workers’ compensation cases and will be glad to assist.