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Can I work a new job although I am receiving workers compensation benefits?

Workers compensation in NSW encourages injured workers to return to work as soon as possible. With the help of a case manager or workplace rehabilitation provider, it is the responsibility of both the injured employee and employer to support an injured worker’s return to work. This is called the return to work program.

Enabling an employee to return to work may mean making changes to the work environment to accommodate an injured worker and/or modifying the duties, tasks and working hours of an injured worker according to their capacity. Unfortunately, this requirement can be ‘a recipe for disaster’ if the employer/employee relationship is strained.

There are many options available to an injured employee who can’t return to work as a direct result of their injury, but what about an injured employee who can return to their pre-injury workplace, but chooses to change jobs anyway?

Why do many injured workers seek new employment?

Injured employees often feel like the attitude of their employer is unsupportive or they may be unsatisfied with their post-injury role and responsibilities. In some cases, a worker may have already been seeking another job before their injury.

For these reasons, someone with a work-related injury may look for a new job even while recovering at work.

Can you change jobs while recovering from a work-related injury?

A workplace injury shouldn’t dictate the course of the rest of your life. It is the responsibility of the employee to focus on their recovery and aim to stay at work in some capacity or return to work as soon as possible. The obligation therefore is to return to work as best possible, not necessarily to stay with the same employer.

While the return to work program aims to keep injured workers in their place of employment through regular review, modifications and support, sometimes an employee is ready to change jobs regardless.

What does a new job mean for workers compensation benefits?

Regardless of employment, an injured worker is still entitled to have reasonable medical expenses covered, and in some cases, they may be entitled to a lump-sum payment.

However, when an injured worker changes jobs, their weekly payments through workers compensation may be affected. This is because weekly payments are calculated according to pre-injury average weekly earnings, and the hours an injured employee is working each week.

Weekly payments are also paid at a higher rate in the first 13 weeks, so the time at which an injured employee changes jobs will be significant. Weekly payments are paid through the employer or insurer so depending on how weekly payments are being made, this is another issue that may complicate the move to another job.

If an employee decides to change jobs while recovering at work, consideration will also be given to their new salary – is it less or more than their average weekly earnings? Injured workers with ongoing limitations also need to be aware that changing jobs may affect their right to claim benefits in the future.

There is no set rule as to how changing jobs will affect an injured worker receiving workers compensation benefits. Each situation is different, but there is no doubt this is a complex area of workers’ compensation law and you should seek legal advice to understand how changing jobs may affect your entitlements and workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers’ compensation experts at Taylor & Scott Lawyers on 1800 786 931 or contact directly through the Taylor & Scott website.

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