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Compensation amendments for first responders with PTSD

A bill has been presented to Parliament amending the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 to include presumptive workers’ compensation laws for first responders diagnosed with PTSD.

Presumptive laws mean first responders, like police, paramedics and firefighters will no longer have to prove their PTSD injury was work-related. Instead, it will be presumed that the nature of their duties was the cause of their injury.

These amendments will have a positive impact on the lives of first responders who are exposed to traumatic incidents in their work. It gives them an easier pathway into the workers’ compensation scheme to get the treatment and support they need. The changes follow an independent review of Queensland’s workers’ compensation process and national reviews into first responder mental health by Beyond Blue and a Commonwealth Senate inquiry.

A stakeholder reference group of unions, employers and WorkCover Queensland was established to develop an action plan to improve the workers’ compensation experience and mental health outcomes for first responders. The group identified several areas to improve a first responders’ experience across the whole claims process—from entry into the scheme to improving rehabilitation and return to work opportunities.

One significant barrier for first responders using the existing scheme was the claims determination phase, in particular the legislative test for injury. Due to cumulative exposure to trauma in first responders, there is sometimes no one single event the worker can pinpoint that contributed to their condition. This could result in delays, as well as unnecessary investigations. Under the revised approach, it will be much easier for first responders to come forward and seek treatment early.

The bill was referred to the Education, Employment and Small Business Committee for detailed consideration and report by February 2021.