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Injured and ill staff

At some stage in their working lives, your staff will be affected by injury or illness. Disability discrimination in the workplace is against the law and you are required to treat staff who are injured or ill, fairly.

Discrimination against injured or ill staff may include:

  • dismissal or demotion
  • denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, bonus pay, training or any other benefits
  • unreasonable workplace policies, practices and procedures.

You are also liable for the behaviour of your staff. This is vicarious liability. If they discriminate against injured or ill staff you may both be held responsible.

Managing staff after injury or illness

An injured or ill staff member needs time to recover and can be assisted in their return to work. You are required to make reasonable accommodations to help your staff, whether their injury or illness happened in or outside work.

An injury or illness may prevent them doing their job without risking their safety or the safety of other staff or customers. Employers have a right to check with a doctor whether staff can do their job safely.

For example, a receptionist recovering from a sprained ankle is probably still able to do the job safely but a bus driver with an eye injury might not be able to see well enough to drive safely.

If a staff member is unable to perform their core duties you are not expected to keep a job open indefinitely or make adjustments that cause unjustifiable hardship to the business. For example, a small business would not have to alter a work vehicle for an injured worker if the cost was too high.

What can an employer do?

If you have staff who have been injured or ill and are trying to return to work, you can:

  • make reasonable changes to the workplace or their hours to help them return safely
  • allow them to go back to their normal job if their doctor agrees
  • give them suitable alternative work if necessary
  • be actively involved in their rehabilitation and return to work plan if the injury was work-related
  • ensure they are not treated unfairly, bullied or harassed because of their injury or illness.

South Australian workers with a work-related injury or illness are often assisted to return to work by Workcover. WorkCover also requires that workers be actively involved in their return to work.

If you are unsure of your rights and obligations regarding injured or ill staff, contact us for advice.

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