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Non-Work-Related Injuries: Navigating Employer Responsibilities

Has a recent legal ruling in South Australia brought an extra layer of complexity for employers in workplace safety, injury management & discrimination legislation?

A recent article by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) highlighted the recent decision by the Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA), which found an SA mechanical & diesel services provider to be in contravention of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 by failing to provide 'reasonable adjustments' for an employee who had sustained a non-work-related injury.

The employee, a 58-year-old diesel mechanic, was assaulted while walking his dog, injuring his wrist. After taking a recommended three-month leave to recover, he returned to work with a medical clearance specifying that he was unfit for heavy lifting but could engage in light duties. Despite this, the employer insisted on a full medical clearance for 'all duties' before allowing the employee's return.

The court found the employer's actions in violation of the Disability Discrimination Act, which mandates that employers make 'reasonable adjustments' to prevent discrimination. Consequently, the court ordered the employer to compensate the worker with $44,000 in damages.

According to the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, employers are obliged to make 'reasonable adjustments' for employees with disabilities & "careful consideration is required based on the specific requirements of the position & the circumstances of the employer before it is determined that making adjustments would pose an unjustifiable hardship," This must be considered based on what is fair & reasonable in all the circumstances.

In light of this recent ruling, employers must be vigilant in understanding the nuances of Worker's Compensation/Injury Management legislation—particularly in mitigating the risk of a non-work-related injury escalating into a worker's compensation claim & fulfilling their obligations under disability discrimination laws.

Employers should review & update their policies & procedures for injury management, fitness for work, return to work, & handling of non-work-related injuries. Employers may also consider implementing functional capacity assessments as a standard practice to evaluate employees' ability to perform their duties, facilitating a smoother transition back to the workplace.

If this case has raised concerns, don't hesitate to contact our team at Insync Workplace Solutions. Our Injury Management Consultant, Hedy Babi, is an expert in her field & specialises in ensuring that your organisation's policies, procedures & processes are up-to-date & compliant with current laws. Hedy can also facilitate a seamless return-to-work process for employees with non-work-related injuries or illnesses.

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