Injury and Illness
Many workers will be affected by injury or illness at some stage of their working life. Disability discrimination in the workplace is against the law and employers are required to treat workers who are injured or ill fairly.
Discrimination against injured or ill workers at work may include:
- firing or demotion
- denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, bonus pay, training or any other benefits
- unreasonable workplace policies, practices and procedures.
Employers are also liable if staff members discriminate against each other because of injury or illness (see vicarious liability).
Returning to work after injury or illness
An employer should make reasonable adjustments to assist any worker returning to work after injury or illness , regardless of whether the injury or illness happened in or outside of work.
Employers do have a right to check with a doctor whether a worker can do their job safely. For example, a receptionist recovering from a sprained ankle is probably still able to do her job safely but a bus driver with an eye injury might not be able to see well enough to drive safely.
If a worker is unable to perform their core duties, the employer is not expected to keep a position open indefinitely or make adjustments that cause unjustifiable hardship. For example, a small business would not have to alter a work vehicle for an injured worker if the cost was too high.
Returning to work: employers responsibilities
If a worker has been injured or ill and are trying to return to work, the employer should:
- make reasonable changes to the workplace or workers hours to help them return safely
- allow the worker to go back to their normal job if a doctor agrees
- provide suitable alternative work if necessary
- be actively involved in the rehabilitation and return to work if the injury was work-related; and
- ensure the worker is 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 Return to Work SA. Return to Work SA also requires that employers be actively involved in a worker's return to work.
What to do if you have problems: for workers
If you lose your job because of your injury or illness, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal. Unfair dismissal claims generally must be made within 21 days. For more information, visit the Commonwealth Fair Work Commission's website.
If you have been treated unfairly because of your injury or illness at work, or when trying to return to work, you may be able to lodge a disability discrimination complaint. Contact us for advice.