Who Insures Queensland Workers Who Injure Themselves Interstate?

This interesting question was investigated in the matter of Covill v WorkCover Queensland [2022] QSC 171. Justice Applegarth of the Queensland Supreme Court delivered judgment on 17 August 2022, examining whether a chef who injured herself working at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory was entitled to claim damages against her employer in Queensland.

The mere fact that a worker is outside Queensland when an injury is suffered does not prevent compensation or damages being payable when the employment is “connected with” Queensland. To use an obvious example, a labourer who usually works on the Gold Coast but works for his employer for a day in Tweed Heads, is entitled to compensation and damages paid by WorkCover Queensland.

Of course, not all examples are as clear-cut. This is why s113 of the Worker’s Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 sets out a “cascading” series of questions to be answered in determining whether employment is “connected” with Queensland. If a question cannot be answered definitively, the “cascading” effect means attention is turned to the next question, and so on until the question can be answered.

Considerations include:

  • Where a worker usually works;
  • Where a worker is usually based;
  • Where the employer’s principal place of business is located;
  • The worker’s work history with the employer.

In Ms Covill’s claim, the Court accepted she was attracted to working for the employer because it offered assignments outside Queensland which would enable her to travel around Australia, working as a chef. For example, Ms Covill had the chance to work in New South Wales on one assignment, the Northern Territory on another assignment, and so on.

Justice Applegarth stated: 

In this case, one is not concerned with the employment relationship involving a pattern of work in which the employer is based in one state and works, on occasions, in a neighbouring state. Instead, one is concerned with an employment relationship that involves offers by (the employer) of work in many different states…

”Prior to the applicant’s injury, both she and (the employer) had an interest in an ongoing relationship whereby the applicant would be offered, and she would accept, employment on a casual basis through assignments by (the employer)…”

After examining all the evidence, the Court found that Ms Covill’s employment was connected to Queensland for the following reasons: 

“… the contract was entered into in Queensland. The conditions of assignment confirmed the laws of Queensland applied to the agreement. She was paid from (the employer’s) premises in Queensland, kept in contact with (the employer) by telephone and email from Queensland and, perhaps most importantly, instructions for her role given to her from Brisbane.”

As a result, although Ms Covill was found not to be “usually based” in any one state, her employment was connected with Queensland, and WorkCover Queensland was required to indemnify the employer in the damages claim.

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
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