CODE 2, VOL 29, NO 51 : 21 december 2015

Clearing up confusion over access to presumptive legislation

I have been contacted by branch and SCM members who report that there is some confusion about access to the new presumptive cancer laws for our members.

It would appear that statements may have been made by individuals and/or organisations that have led to confusion amongst our members about who is eligible, who is automatically covered and who is required to appear before a "panel" to have their claim assessed.

I provide here a link to the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Regulator "factsheet" for permanent and auxiliary firefighters.

The "factsheet" provides information which clears up any confusion in quite simple language. I encourage all members to review the information provided.

To be clear, the "factsheet" states the following in regards to eligibility and automatic coverage:

“Queensland firefighters who have been diagnosed with one of 12 specified cancers, and have been employed for the respective qualifying period in an active firefighting role, will have their cancer deemed as work related for the purposes of accessing workers’ compensation benefits”

“The provisions apply to all current or former firefighters who are diagnosed with one of the scheduled cancers on or after 15 July 2015.”

“The application process for a firefighter diagnosed with one of the 12 specified cancers is essentially the same as it is for any other injury where a claim is lodged with WorkCover Queensland with supporting medical certification of their cancer from their treating specialist.”

“WorkCover Queensland assesses all applications for compensation in the same way. Once an application has been lodged, the claims assessor will assess the information provided in the worker’s application to determine whether it fulfils the requirements of the Act. In the case of the deemed disease laws, this will involve determining whether the firefighter has been diagnosed with one of the specified cancers and whether they were employed as a firefighter for the required qualifying period of active service.”

“To assist in this process, WorkCover’s claims assessor will contact the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and treating doctors to verify the information provided in their application.”

Should you need to make a WorkCover claim for one of the 12 specified cancers, you are welcome to, and encouraged to, contact your union.  We can assist you in the collection of the required documents and the simple process of filling out the claim application forms.  This assistance is just one of the many services you have access to, free of charge, as a UFUQ member.

To avoid any confusion, firefighters who do not have one of the twelve accepted deemed diseases will still be able to make application under the workers’ compensation scheme’s general entitlement provisions. This will be subject to the same process as any other WorkCover claim.

As for those who are required to appear before a ‘panel’ to have their claim assessed, the Regulator has communicated that this applies to volunteer firefighters only. The ‘factsheet’ states the following:

“To ensure volunteer firefighters are treated beneficially in the absence of attendance records that demonstrate active firefighting service, a review panel is being established to make recommendations to WorkCover Queensland on whether to accept or reject a deemed disease claim.”

The union has been informed that lawyers are contacting members offering a no win no fee service. Lawyers are not required to fill out forms or provide your work history to WorkCover, especially after these laws have now gone through Parliament. 

If you have any remaining questions about your access to presumptive legislation, we encourage you to speak to your UFUQ representative and to avoid taking advice from anyone other than your union.

I hope this clears up the miscommunication and confusion amongst you.

 John Oliver - State Secretary