What Duty of Care Does an Employer Owe to their Employees?

by The FindLaw Team

If you’re about to venture out and start a business of your own, one of the primary considerations that employers have to make is the safety and wellbeing of their workers. There are numerous legislative and common law measures in place to ensure the safety of employees, and if an employer is at fault for injury or harm to an employee during the course of their duties, an employer may be liable for compensation due to a breach of their duty of care. So it is vital that if you’re about to start your own business, that you are aware of what duties you owe to your employees.

When can employee claim compensation?

If an employee is injured carrying out their duties, and the work undertaken was a significant contributing factor towards the injury or disease suffered, a worker may be able to sue for damages provided they are able to show that an employer was negligent.

However, it’s important to note that most employees will have basic WorkCover benefits available to them in the form of weekly payments and medical treatment, even if the injury was due to their own actions.

What injuries are covered?

Most personal injuries are covered by the various State legislative instruments and using s 32 of Queensland’s Worker’s Compensation and Rehabilitation Act as a basis, an ‘injury’ can include the following:

  • a disease contracted during the course of employment (whether at the workplace or not) if the work performed was a significant contributing factor
  • an aggravation of an injury, disease, or medical condition arising out of the course of employment, and the work performed was a significant contributing factor to the aggravation.

Business owners should note that no compensation claim can be made for psychological injuries caused by any reasonable actions. Using s 11A of the Workers Compensation Act of New South Wales as an example, actions which may include: demotion, promotion, performance appraisals, discipline, retrenchment or dismissal are all considered reasonable, and cannot be subject to an action for psychological injury from an employee if that is the source of their grievance.

All employers must have insurance

As an employer, you should be aware that it is mandatory to take out an insurance policy to cover the liabilities that may occur, such as workers compensation. An employer’s premiums are usually based on their wage bill, and if a situation arises where the employer is uninsured, a compensation claim can be made to the State WorkCover authority. However, it’s important to reiterate that all employers must take out an insurance policy, and a failure to do so is against the law and might result in criminal charges.

All employers owe their workers a duty of care

The law requires that an employer takes reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all employees, and they are obliged to observe a reasonable standard of care. Broadly speaking, employers are required to provide adequate safety information and equipment to their employees, to ensure that the workplace is safe, while providing adequate instructions and competent staff to carry out the duties, and to properly warn employees of any dangers in the workplace. Failure to adequately adhere to their statutory duties may result in an action against an employer. 

This article is a very broad overview of workplace injuries, and if you’re an employer or employee, who needs assistance with any employment issue, please seek the appropriate legal help. 


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