CODE 2, VOL 35, NO 4 : 16 February 2021
UPDATE: FURTHER PROGRESS TOWARDS PRESUMPTIVE LEGISLATION FOR PTSI
As you will recall, on 14 December 2020, I provided an update to members on the progress of the Bill currently before the Queensland Parliament that proposes to modify Queensland’s workers compensation laws to include presumptive legislation for Post-traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
As I reported to members, the Education, Employment and Training Committee (the committee) – was due to publish a report on their inquiry on Friday 12 February 2021. This report is now publicly available, you can access it here.
As always, your union has taken every opportunity to proactively advance the interests of UFUQ members regarding this matter. In September and December 2020, the UFUQ made written submissions regarding the Bill, and appeared at a public hearing of the inquiry into the Bill on 16 December 2020.
The committee acknowledged the submissions of the UFUQ several times in their report, particularly the following UFUQ recommendations –
• To amend the Bill so that the ‘first responders’ and ‘eligible employees’ schedules be included in the Act rather than in Regulation, and
• To amend the Bill to provide for a presumption of injury for all psychological injuries diagnosed as work‐related as a result of exposure to a traumatic event or cumulative traumatic events (not just PTSI), including the UFUQ’s verbal submissions during the public hearing –
“… if we are looking at amending the bill to address this type of circumstance, particularly presumption of injury claim which will make it easier and less cumbersome for people to make this type of claim, it should include those types of injuries as well. It is not just isolated to PTSI”, and
• To amend the Bill to enable diagnosis by a psychologist rather than restricting it to a psychiatrist only (as occurs in Canadian jurisdictions), and
• To amend the wording of the Bill to make it clear ‘only demonstrable and reasonable evidence may be relied upon’ to rebut a presumption of injury claim for PTSI to prevent employers (including QFES) from trying to rely on other circumstances in members’ lives that have arisen because of their undiagnosed psychological injury, including the UFUQ’s verbal submissions –
“… our members who are suffering from PTSI or some other trauma related psychological injury do not just wake up one day and suddenly are suffering from it. They have probably battled with that for some time and not realised… their life has started to maybe spiral out of control… that is secondary to their primary injury which is clearly work related”.
The committee made seven (7) recommendations in their report. Three (3) of those recommendations relate directly to the submissions of the UFUQ.
I am pleased to report that the committee recommended that the Bill be passed by the Queensland Parliament as well as the following –
• “… that the planned review of the presumptive legislation introduced by the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 to be conducted 12 months after commencement consider the inclusion of other psychological injuries”, and
• “… that the Bill be amended to insert the schedules of ‘first responders’ and ‘eligible employees’ into the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 such that future amendments to these provisions are to be considered by the Legislative Assembly”.
In response to the submissions of the UFUQ and other unions, the Office of Industrial Relations also committed to preparing guidance material for employers and insurers to inform them about the strength of evidence required to be presented to prove that employment was not a significant contributing factor to PTSI. This was supported by the committee.
Given the committee’s recommendations, and with Parliament sitting again from 23 February 2021, I am hopeful these laws will be passed by the Queensland Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
I will keep you updated as these laws progress through the parliamentary system.
John Oliver – General Secretary
Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD