By the Working Life Team Monday, 02 May 2016
Thousands failing to collect workers comp
THOUSANDS of people who get hurt on the job are failing to apply for the compensation they are entitled to receive, warns a leading organisations helping injured workers.
Assisting workers to navigate the bewildering legal compensation system is just one of the roles of the Injured Workers Support Network (IWSN).
The organisation helps fill the void created when someone gets hurt at work, offering key advice and support.
The network was set up in 2011 as concerns over workers’ legal rights to compensation grew.
As well, there was recognition injured workers need to have a voice.
The network offers advice and guidance through their website and helpline, as well as organising a growing number of member networks for workers hurt on-the-job.
“The IWSN is member-managed and run,” says IWSN Coordinator, Rowan Kernabone.
“Getting injured at work can be a life-changing and frightening situation, we aim to help make it easier.”
Negotiating the workers’ compensation system can be a difficult process, he tells Working Life.
“Firstly, we help make sure those responsible for operating and running the system continue to hear the voices of those they are meant to help — the injured workers. We also provide independent advice to workers on the intricacies of a sometimes bewildering compensation system.”
Another key role is offering vital emotional support to injured workers and their families with local meetings, such as the Wollongong group (pictured above).
Now, the network’s success in NSW means the program is being rolled out across other states, with the help of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
It’s a lifeline — literally — for the thousands of workers injured each year.
“When we started in 2011 it was common to get at least one call from someone contemplating suicide once a week. It still happens, but is less regular,” says Rowan.
Calls such as these are directed towards professionals equipped to deal with such crises.
But the Network does more than fill a social and emotional void. It offers practical advice to help workers know their legal rights.
“At least half of 120,000 workers injured in NSW dont claim compensation they were entitled to,” says Rowan.
“The system isn’t always helpful to injured workers — we aim to change that.”
The program runs monthly meetings across metro Sydney and regional areas where injured workers can share their experiences and advice, working together for change.
Unions are supporting the scheme, an important stop gap to prevent members from feeling outside the loop due to their injury.
“At least 20 per cent of injured workers lose their home, that’s really tough,” says Rowan.
For workers such as Carl, the network is a lifeline and a huge moral support for helping deal with unhelpful insurance companies.
“I was injured in a workplace accident back in 2013,” he says.
“I had a very severe injury and still am unable to work. I’ve been through absolute hell with the way I have been treated by the insurance company — bullied, discriminated against, harassed, intimidated, victimised and vilified by the insurer.”
Carl didn’t feel the insurance supplied rehabilitation service was adequate, and after eight months discovered he could choose his own medical rehabilitation.
“I was at rock bottom and contemplated a lot of possibilities. My family was put through through absolute hell with the way I have been treated by the whole system, and especially the insurer.”
Carl admits he was about to give up when he discovered the Injured Workers Support Network.
“Since finding the IWSN I’ve come out fighting for myself and my family,” says Carl.
“With the other members in my area we’ve campaigned for a fairer workers comp system and advocated for change within WorkCover itself”.
The language of empathy is invaluable, he says.
“I’m helping others who are going through the same hell I went through. “
The injured workers support network is c organising a family picnic day in Merrylands Sydney to coincide with June 19th Injured Workers Day.