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Working with chronic pain – what are my rights?


A workplace injury causing chronic pain can seriously affect a person’s quality of life, including their ability to carry out everyday activities like work and exercise.

According to the most recent government estimates, chronic pain affects more than 1.6 million Australians, including 1 in 5 aged 45 and over.

If you’re suffering from chronic pain following an injury at work, here’s what you should know.

Chronic pain from a workplace injury

If you are experiencing chronic pain, it’s important you speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Be honest with your doctor about your symptoms and how they are affecting your quality of life and ability to work.

Many cases of chronic pain stems from an obvious initial incident, like a workplace accident. If you were injured at work and now experience chronic pain, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation, including for your medical expenses and loss of wages. For advice specific to your situation and any potential claim, contact our workers’ compensation experts for a free legal consult.

Sometimes, the connection between work and chronic pain or illness may not be immediately obvious. By talking to your doctor, you create a record of your conditions and symptoms which can be referred to should you later need to make a claim. Depending on your condition, your doctor may write you a certificate of capacity.

What is a certificate of capacity?

A certificate of capacity from your doctor will help you, your employer, health providers and insurers work together to manage your workload, or if you require time off, help you return to work as safely and efficiently as possible.

The certificate includes your:

  • Diagnosis
  • Work capacity
  • Information on rehabilitation you can undertake to help your recovery
  • Time frames of when your treatment and rehabilitation is expected to be completed.

Returning to work after injury

If you’re preparing to come back to work after suffering a workplace injury causing chronic pain, it’s important your responsibilities are managed to prioritise your heath.

Communicate clearly with your employer to make sure they understand, based off your doctor’s assessment, the extent of your chronic pain, the time off you require and work with them to plan out your return to work. Your employer has an obligation to carry out a return-to-work assessment and plan, but it is up to you to do all that is reasonable to return to work.

Be cautious not to push yourself too hard in case you risk reinjuring yourself or make your chronic pain worse. It is essential to reassess your capacity along the way. If your work is causing flare ups of pain, talk to your doctor about a change in your capacity and report this to your employer.

Ensure you attend scheduled check-ups with your doctor and report in detail on how you’re progressing, even if a significant amount of time has passed since your injury or diagnosis with chronic pain.

What if I can’t return to work for a long period, or at all?

Under common law, if you suffer an injury or illness, your employment is protected for 52 weeks (1 year). Your employer is required to hold your pre-injury role or a similar position that provides the same rights and entitlements.

If you are not going to be able to return to work at all or in the same role, you should seek legal advice about what your rights are under the workers’ compensation scheme in your state.

In addition to workers’ compensation, depending on your superannuation or your insurance providers you may be covered by a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) or similar policy. These policies provide support to holders who become unable to work due to injury. Shine Lawyers have a dedicated Superannuation and Insurance Claim team who will help you identify and access your entitlements.

At Shine Lawyers, we’ve more than 45 years’ experience representing injured workers

If you’ve suffered a workplace injury and are experiencing chronic pain as a result, you may have a claim for compensation.

Our expert workers’ compensation lawyers can help you to understand your rights and assist with your workers’ compensation claim on a No Win No Fee basis*, as well as access your entitlements under superannuation or insurance.

*Conditions Apply

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 5, 2021.

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