Who is an employer?

Under the Workers Compensation Act 1951 (the Act) an employer is someone who employs workers under a 'contract of service', or in certain circumstances a 'contract for service'. A contract can be express or implied, made either orally or in writing and applies to full time, part time and casual workers.

A 'contract of service' exists where there is an employer/worker relationship. In a contract of service, the employer directly engages a worker in employment. Most employment contracts are made under a 'contract of service'.

A 'contract for service' circumstance is where an individual performs work for the principal and personally does part or all of the work. A person who is employed under a 'contract for service' and works on a regular and systematic basis can be deemed to be a worker.

An example of a 'contract for service' relationship, where a person is deemed a worker for the purposes of workers compensation, is the situation where a bricklayer engaged under a 'contract for service' by a particular builder for some time, who has worked for almost no-one else over that time, even if there is no express or implied guarantee of continuing work.

Both 'business' and 'non-business' employers are recognised for the purposes of the Act.

A 'business employer' is an employer who employs a person for work that is for (or incidental to) the employer's trade or business.

A 'non-business employer' is an employer who employs a person for work that is not for (or incidental to) the employer's trade or business.

Company director obligations

Question: Are Pty Ltd companies required to hold a current workers compensation policy even if the company is dormant and/or not earning any income?

Answer: Yes. An employer must maintain a policy of workers' compensation insurance wherever they have one or more individuals engaged as workers for their business. Workers include any individual who works under a contract of service, whether the contract is expressed or implied, oral or written. This means that while a business remains a registered legal entity with an appointed office holder, that office holder falling within the meaning of worker, it is legally obliged to maintain a policy of workers compensation insurance with an approved insurer. The obligation to maintain this coverage is not dependant on the level of business activity undertaken by the employer. Rather, the level of business activity will have a direct impact upon the premium payable for the policy of insurance and the benefits payable in the event of injury.

Employers seeking to re-assess their trading activity should seek legal advice to ensure that they continue to satisfy their obligations for workers' compensation insurance under the Act.

For further information refer to section 147A of the Act, the definition of 'employer' and 'workers' can be found in sections 5 and 8(1) of that Act.

General obligations for employers

Employers obligations include:

  • holding a current workers compensation insurance policy for all their workers in the ACT
  • complying with their insurer's injury management program
  • displaying a notice that outlines the requirements under the Act for making compensation claims, including the name of the insurer and current insurance policy details
  • establishing (and displaying) a written return to work program in consultation with workers, an approved rehabilitation provider and relevant unions
  • providing a register of injuries that is accessible to all workers
  • providing specific information required by the insurer including yearly wage reports

There are strict penalties for operating a business in the ACT without an appropriate level of workers' compensation insurance. As well as on the spot fines, you can also be charged double the premium avoided over the last five years, on top of having to pay the insurance premium you should have.

Workers compensation in the ACT is a privately underwritten and market driven scheme. Insurers apply to WorkSafe ACT to become 'approved Insurers' to offer workers compensation coverage in the ACT.

There are seven insurers currently approved to provide private sector workers compensation insurance in the ACT. Should you need to initiate a policy you should contact an Approved Insurer directly.

For a list of current approved insurers refer to the Workers Compensation Insurer Approval page.

Obligations in handling a claim

When a worker is injured and seeks to make a worker’s compensation claim an employer must:

  • make compensation claim forms available to the worker
  • record in the register of injuries the date of the notice of injury
  • notify the insurer of an injury within 48 hours of being made aware of the workplace injury

If the employer fails to give notice within the specified timeframe (48 hours), the employer is directly liable for weekly compensation from the end of the notification time until the notice is given to the insurer and cannot be reimbursed by the insurer for compensation paid prior to the date of notification. An employer must:

  • forward the worker's claim form to the insurer within seven days of receiving the claim form from the worker
  • cooperate in the development of, and comply with, the insurer's personal injury plan for the injured worker
  • provide vocational rehabilitation
  • ensure that any payments to the worker received from the insurer are immediately paid to the injured worker
  • provide suitable employment, if available for an injured worker where a request for work is received within six months of the injury

Premium costs

Many factors are taken into consideration by approved insurers when calculating workers compensation insurance premiums. These include but are not limited to industry type, claims history, wages bill and number of employees. A good claims record in conjunction with good work health and safety practices can influence the premium to be paid. Insurers are required to disclose the default insurance fund levy on all premium notices.

Exempt employers

Employers with the resources to fund any workers compensation liability imposed on them may apply to WorkSafe ACT to be a self-insurer.

Under the Workers Compensation Act 1951 (the Act) an employer is someone who employs workers under a 'contract of service', or in certain circumstances a 'contract for service'. A contract can be express or implied, made either orally or in writing and applies to full time, part time and casual workers.

A 'contract of service' exists where there is an employer/worker relationship. In a contract of service, the employer directly engages a worker in employment. Most employment contracts are made under a 'contract of service'.

A 'contract for service' circumstance is where an individual performs work for the principal and personally does part or all of the work. A person who is employed under a 'contract for service' and works on a regular and systematic basis can be deemed to be a worker.

An example of a 'contract for service' relationship, where a person is deemed a worker for the purposes of workers compensation, is the situation where a bricklayer engaged under a 'contract for service' by a particular builder for some time, who has worked for almost no-one else over that time, even if there is no express or implied guarantee of continuing work.

Both 'business' and 'non-business' employers are recognised for the purposes of the Act.

A 'business employer' is an employer who employs a person for work that is for (or incidental to) the employer's trade or business.

A 'non-business employer' is an employer who employs a person for work that is not for (or incidental to) the employer's trade or business.

Company director obligations

Are Pty Ltd companies required to hold a current workers compensation policy even if the company is dormant and/or not earning any income?

Yes. An employer must maintain a policy of workers' compensation insurance wherever they have one or more individuals engaged as workers for their business. Workers include any individual who works under a contract of service, whether the contract is expressed or implied, oral or written. This means that while a business remains a registered legal entity with an appointed office holder, that office holder falling within the meaning of worker, it is legally obliged to maintain a policy of workers compensation insurance with an approved insurer. The obligation to maintain this coverage is not dependant on the level of business activity undertaken by the employer. Rather, the level of business activity will have a direct impact upon the premium payable for the policy of insurance and the benefits payable in the event of injury.

Employers seeking to re-assess their trading activity should seek legal advice to ensure that they continue to satisfy their obligations for workers' compensation insurance under the Act.

For further information refer to section 147A of the Act, the definition of 'employer' and 'workers' can be found in sections 5 and 8(1) of that Act.

Register of injuries

The register of injuries must be kept by the employer in an on site location where it is readily accessible to workers. It records every injury that occurs in the workplace, regardless of whether or not a claim is made. Notification of an injury must be as soon as practicable.

If details of the injury are entered in the register as soon as possible after the injury happens, the entry is taken to be notice of the injury given to the employer by the injured worker.

The register of injuries should include details of the:

  • company or business
  • time date and place where injury occurred
  • injured worker
  • accident
  • treatment given
  • witness
  • person registering the injury

Injury notice

(this does not apply to approved self-insurers)

The employer must give an injury notice to the insurer within 48 hours after becoming aware that a worker has received a workplace injury. The notice may be given orally, in writing, or in electronic form, but if given orally must be confirmed in writing or electronically within three days after giving the notice orally.

If the employer does not notify the insurer within 48 hours of when a workplace injury has occurred, as outlined above, the employer is liable to pay the injured worker weekly compensation for the delay in excess of the 48 hours in providing the notice, and cannot recover this payment from the insurer.

Below is information that may be required by the insurer with a notification of injury.

Employer details

  • Employer ABN
  • Name
  • Address
  • Name of authorised person
  • Phone number
  • Fax number

Injured worker details

  • Surname
  • Given names
  • Male or female
  • Address
  • Suburb
  • Post code
  • Contact phone number
  • Mobile phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Occupation

Accident/injury details

  • Injury/disease suffered
  • Body part affected by injury/disease
  • Cause of the injury
  • Date of the injury
  • Time of the injury
  • Exact location injury occurred

Details of nominated doctor treating injured worker

  • Name of medical practice
  • Address of medical practice
  • Name of doctor
  • Phone number
  • Fax number

Details of treatment

  • Person providing first aid treatment
  • Referrals for further treatment

Witness details

  • Name
  • Position held with the business
  • Phone number
  • Fax number
  • Mobile phone number

ACT workers compensation scheme: commonwealth jobkeeper payments

Advice is available on how the Commonwealth's JobKeeper payments in response to the impacts of COVID-19 affect obligations under the Workers Compensation Act 1951 (the Act). Refer to this information for advice about weges declaration for workers' compensation premiums and earnings for the purposes of weekly compensation payments.

ACT Workers Compensation Scheme: Commonwealth Jobkeeper Payments (PDF 183KB)

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