WorkSafe2: Follow-up investigation into the management of complex workers compensation claims
OMBUDSMAN AUSTRALIA WORKSAFE2 – Follow up Investigation.From the evidence in this report, it would appear that my 2016 investigation only scratched the surface. New issues were also identified in the files we reviewed, and confirmed in interviews, including the use of surveillance without adequate justification. Such an invasion of people’s privacy is only permitted if there is some evidence of worker dishonesty, but we found numerous examples of surveillance being used without a shred of evidence to justify it. Take the case of Sophia, an aged care worker, who had injured her back at work. The agent used surveillance to check her mobility. Even though the surveillance report confirmed she walked with a limp throughout, the agent considered extending it. The surveillance must have been intrusive, as Sophia asked the agent if they were doing it. Even more troublingly, the agent denied it and told her if she had concerns about being followed she should go to the police.We also saw significant evidence of unfair return to work practices: many requiring a worker to attend occupational rehabilitation in wholly unsuitable circumstances, such as the man experiencing severe psychotic hallucinations, or the homeless man in hospital after attempting self-harm, and whose non-compliance notice was sent to the residential address he had been obliged to leave despite knowing he was homeless.“For the injured worker, it’s like a court. They’re traumatised, they’re stressed … they’re the only person in the room not paid to be there …”Conciliation OfficerThe workers affected in the cases we reviewed included nurses, teachers, police officers, aged care and childcare workers, truck drivers, baggage handlers and tradesmen. The emotional toll was unequivocal; the cost not only to them and their families, but to society, should not be underestimated. Many of the decisions and actions we saw were not only unjust, unreasonable and wrong. Some were downright immoral and unethical.