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This month we look into new minimum wage rates in place since July 1, 2019, as well as into a significant ruling on a workers compensation case.

National Wage CaseTTIA News

The Fair Work Commission released the tenth annual minimum wage review decision under the Fair Work Act, 2009 on May 30, 2019.

This decision increased the modern award wage rates by 3.0 percent and the national minimum wage from $719.20 per week to $740.80 per week, or $19.49 per hour based on a 38-hour working week.

Last year’s increase was 3.5 percent. The increased rates took effect from the first full pay period starting on or after July 1, 2019.

All tree contractors should ensure they are meeting the new minimum obligations from July 1, 2019. Please note that the increase was fully absorbable into over-award payments.

Tree contractors with any queries in regard to paying rates, please contact TTIA on (02) 9264 0011.

Ruling On Workers Compensation At A Work Event

When I hear employers and Members talk of their experiences with the worker’s compensation system, I normally see the abject pain and helplessness displayed on their normally pleasant facial expressions. Invariably, the issue of unfair liability arises from business owners who rightly claim many injuries seem to have originated from a previous employer, or outside an employee’s working time, yet somehow the medical profession and/or the court/tribunal system pulls them into a costly liability situation.

In a recent South Australian Employment Tribunal hearing (Power v Return to Work South Australia, May 2019), a significant matter was dealt with where an employee sustained an injury at a workplace function; namely, he fell over and hit his head after attending an awards night hosted by his employer.

Whilst the employee had not consumed alcohol during the ceremony, it was noticed by several witnesses that he was walking unsteadily, and his eyes were rolled back. It was observed the employee collided with a bathroom door handle before falling backward and hitting his head on the hard bathroom floor.

A witness left the scene immediately to seek assistance as blood flowed freely from the back of the employee’s head and ears.

In the aftermath, the employee sustained serious head injuries and had amnesia from the injury and absolutely no recollection of the incident. He took the firm legal position that he had been attending the function at his employer’s request and therefore the injury was sustained in the course of his work.

The South Australian Employment Tribunal considered the incident as it applied to the State’s Return to Work Act 2014. This Act provides that for an injury to be considered work-related and compensable, there are two basic requirements. Firstly, the injury must arise in the course of the person’s employment. Secondly, the worker’s employment must be a significant cause of the injury.

In this case, the judge found that only one of these conditions was satisfied. The judge found that while the injury had occurred in the course of the man’s employment, the injury arose from a pre-existing medical condition that just happened to manifest itself at work but without his employment being a contributing factor.

The key finding in this judgment was that his employment was not in any real or meaningful sense a significant contributing cause of the injury.

Now, none of this means that as employers we don’t need to take steps to limit liability when hosting workplace functions. TTIA has provided guidelines on this issue in the past which tree contractor members are welcome to access.

However, the significance of this case is that it is not enough for an employee’s injury to occur in the course of his/her employment. The employment must also be a significant contributing cause of the injury.

Please contact TTIA on (02) 9264 0011 if you wish to have further information.

Brian Beecroft

Chief Executive Officer

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