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New claims pathway for first responders and eligible employees with PTSD

Queensland Parliament passed the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 on 12 May 2021, with changes to the workers’ compensation scheme that will commence on assent.

According to the explanatory notes, the amendments are designed to provide a streamlined claims pathway for first responders and eligible employees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To achieve this, the amendments introduce a presumption for first responders diagnosed with PTSD, which provides that the PTSD is deemed to be a work-related injury unless there is evidence to the contrary. The presumption can be rebutted if it is proved the first responder’s condition did not arise out of, or in the course of, their employment, or if the first responder’s employment is not a significant contributing factor.

The presumption of injury will apply to defined first responders and other eligible employees which are prescribed in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014.

QLS provided a submission to the parliamentary Education, Employment and Training Committee on the Bill. In our submission, QLS strongly agreed that workers with work-related psychiatric and psychological injuries should be entitled to workers’ compensation and support.

QLS nevertheless raised concerns about the measures introduced. In particular, QLS considered that, while there is an evidentiary basis to support the presumption for traditional first responder roles, the scope of the amendments is very broad and potentially extends beyond the cohort of high-risk individuals identified by, for example, Beyond Blue’s ‘Answering the call national survey’ report and the Senate Education and Employment References Committee report, ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’. QLS held concerns about reversing the onus of proof for a provision with such a wide application.

QLS also considered that there was potential for the measures to create an inherent unfairness, as the benefit of the presumption is accessible to some workers and not others who routinely encounter similar traumatic circumstances.

The parliamentary committee made a number of recommendations, including proposing a 12-month review. QLS supports the proposed review of the measures to ensure that the measures operate effectively and have not compromised the overall viability of the workers’ compensation scheme.

For more information, read the QLS submission.

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