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Disability support workers – your rights with combative clients


Disability support workers play a vital role in caring, supervising and supporting vulnerable Australians, both at home and in care facilities.

The needs of Australians living with a disability are complex and so is the work required to support them.

Due to the care and physical requirements of the role, disability support workers are exposed to some risk of injury in their roles. When this risk isn’t properly managed by employers, workers can end up hurt.

What are my rights as a disability support worker

Disability support workers enjoy the same basic health and safety rights as other Australian employees, whether they work casual, contract, part-time or full-time.

Disability support providers have a responsibly to keep their employees safe at work. This includes:

  • Instructing and training staff on performing their role safely
  • Providing appropriate equipment
  • Consulting employees on safety

In addition to their right to safety, disability support workers are entitled to fair pay and conditions, including access to workers compensation when injured.

Common injuries sustained by disability support workers

Owing to the physical requirements of the role, physical injuries are common among disability support workers. These include:

  • Back injuries, for example from lifting clients or equipment
  • Slips and falls due to hazards like spilled water
  • Repetitive strain or muscle stress due to workload

Additionally, disability care workers may suffer physical or psychological injuries due to abuse, either by clients or colleagues. This abuse can range from physical violence against carers to extensive verbal harassment or bullying.

Can disability support workers refuse care with violent clients?

Disability support workers may care for clients who behave violently or abusively throughout the course of their employment. If a client is being violent or abusive, care workers should raise this with their employer, either through their manager or safety representative.

It’s important carers report any client safety concerns, even if they don’t personally feel at risk caring for the client. This will prevent another carers, unaware of the risk, from being harmed.

When a violent or abusive client is raised by an employee, disability care providers should take appropriate steps to minimise the risk for workers when caring for these clients. If a provider fails to take steps to protect its employees, it risks harming them and their clients.

Injured working in disability care? Shine Lawyers can help

If you’ve suffered an injury working in disability care, whether physical or psychological, you may be eligible to make a claim for workers compensation. A successful workers compensation claim could provide you with the medical and financial support you need to get your life back on track.

Contact us to speak with one of our workers compensation experts about your situation on a free, no-obligation basis.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 18, 2021.

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