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State expands firefighter access to workers’ comp

Queensland has changed its workers’ compensation scheme to improve coverage and support for firefighters.

The reforms follow recommendations from an independent review last year by former state industrial relations commissioner Glenys Fisher and Griffith University employment relations expert Professor David Peetz.

Ten new cancers and asbestos-related diseases will be added to the list of illnesses presumed to be related to firefighting work.

The scheme dictates a minimum number of years of service for an illness to be assumed to be caused by the job. Workers diagnosed with a listed cancer but who have served below the threshold are required to show the illness is work-related.

Other changes to the wider scheme include default payments once a claim is accepted, to speed access to weekly compensation payments and reduce financial stress and ease recovery.

The reforms will require insurers to take reasonable steps to minimise the chances of a worker developing additional psychological illness and provide claimants and employers with a statement of their rights. 

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace says the reforms will also help ensure more people – including gig workers – are appropriately supported.

“Queensland gig workers currently operate outside regulation, which means that they can experience workplace injury without being able to access the support of the scheme,” she said.

“This bill provides flexibility for our government to regulate the status of gig workers under workers’ compensation laws, once the matter has been determined under new Fair Work Commission powers to regulate workers and businesses in the gig economy.”

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Jacqueline King says the reforms support the “important right” for workers to have access to compensation schemes.