Getting a new job after a workplace injury

job-application-workcover

Fact: if you have suffered a workplace injury or illness it can be extremely difficult if not impossible to find new employment because injured workers “must” disclose all pre-existing  medical conditions if the employer requests it. Is being honest about your pre-existing injury/illness the only way to go?

Getting a new job after a workplace injury

A few years after my accident, I was also unfortunately sacked by my longstanding employer (where my accident happened).  The termination letter went essentially on about the inherent job requirements, where my employer had taken it upon itself to judge my work capacity. At the time I did have a certificate of capacity issued by a top specialist, allowing me to continue in my position, with the same physical restrictions as before my surgery (number 6). I felt as though I had been severely punished by my employer, for being injured in the first place and for trying so hard to stay at work and improve my condition. It was a slap in face, after 10 years of loyal service, and losing my (beloved) job (and identity) plunged me into a very severe depression.

When my injury appeared to have ‘stabilised’, I applied for several similar jobs with other employers. I had a very good work reputation and was well-known within the industry. I actually was offered two positions spontaneously by 2 different employers when they heard I was looking for a new job. I passed the interviews with flying colours and was verbally informed I was the preferred candidate for the job, UNTIL my disclosure of my workcover claim made its way to the employer’s HR.

So, the question is how do we go about disclosure of injury/illness when applying for a new job, without being ‘discriminated’ against?

Apart from QLD, there is no real legal obligation per se to disclose your past injuries/illnesses and/or past workcover claims, unless the injury/illness may affect your ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job.

Of course, in a perfect world we should all be honest and upfront and readily disclose our injuries to prospective employers. However, we’re talking about SURVIVAL: finding and getting a new job and surviving it so we can feed ourselves and our family.

Let’s say you had a back injury and applied for a job as a window cleaner. Now your back injury does not really fit with a cleaning job, given the constant bending, lifting etc. required. But you are broke, have been kicked off the workcover system and have a family to feed… Let’s say you were to be successful in your application for this job, and you hurt your back again, or aggravate your pre-existing back injury, you would NOT be able to lodge a new workcover claim, and your new employer would NOT have any obligations to your nor your injury.

It is therefore important that you declare / disclose any injury you have or had when applying for a new job.

However, if you disclose your pre-existing injury, you will be (often) very restricted in being successful in obtaining a new job. Employers do NOT want to employ ‘liabilities’ or potential ‘liabilities’ because were you to aggravate your injury, they would become liable for you and for their raised workcover insurance premiums.

Many of us have applied for new jobs, and most of us did not get the job, even though we may have much more experience for the job, or be better qualified for it.

Should injured/ill workers be honest in their job applications?

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Is being honest about your pre-existing injury/illness the only way to go?

Generally speaking your prospective employer will not ask verbal questions about past or current injuries/illnesses and workcover claims during the job interview itself. However, when you pass the interview and the new employer is serious about employing you, then they will (most often) get you to undergo a medical assessment. This is the tricky part where you have to fill in (and sign) forms which often ask about past injuries, even mental illnesses. Some employers will also have you tested for drugs, and it can sometimes detect certain prescription medications. Generally speaking these forms also clearly warn you that you could be terminated/dismissed if you’re not being truthful about past and current injuries and illnesses.

Obviously being honest has its advantages, such as a mutual ‘trust’ rapport, ensuring you are looked after with re to workplace practices, ergonomics etc. but being honest about past  and /or current injuries/illnesses will often lead to you not getting the job.

For example, on your application or medical assessment forms, you may disclose a past psychological injury knowing that you are deemed fully fit to work by both your own treating doctors(s) and a workcover doctor (i.e. IME). The employer’s doctor may be or appear very supportive of you during your medical assessment, but – you guessed it- you were not hired once you disclosed any past injury/illness. Such experience is extremely common.

Basically it comes to this: Disclosure = NO job offer! The end.

To disclose or not to disclose

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Some employers may ask you fairly generic questions (during the interview, at the medical or on application forms) such as:

Have you had any condition that may affect your work?

Now, if your workcover claim is old and you have long been cleared for work, then – in our opinion -the appropriate answer would be “No”. Simple, no further digging is needed.

However, some employers may ask you a more specific question, such as:

Have you had any physical or psychological injury from work?

If you answer “Yes”, you will (most likely) NOT  get the job.

Many of us have been totally upfront with prospective employers about our injuries, as we’d like to believe it would be wrong to hide an injury or illness just so you can get to the job offer … and then drop the “injury” or “illness” or “workcover claim” bomb on the new employer. Only to find out we did not get the job because of it.

From experience we believe that if your past/current injury/illness does not affect the (new) work, it isn’t worth disclosing it during an interview or when the question is raised.

Each to his/her own – You’re the boss of your decision-making re disclosure. Good luck!

Do any others have experience of disclosure while job seeking under a WorkCover Certificate of Capacity, or when job seeking after a workplace injury/illness?

 

[Post dictated by WCV and transcribed on her behalf]



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4 Responses to “Getting a new job after a workplace injury”

  1. Hi, I am from Victoria and I am interested in this comment “Apart from QLD, there is no real legal obligation per se to disclose your past injuries/illnesses and/or past workcover claims, unless the injury/illness may affect your ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job.”
    Does anyone know if there Workcover legislation that supports that comment? Thank you.

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    • @Joan, there is no legislation that states you must disclose, except in QLD see http://aworkcovervictimsdiary.com/2014/05/workcover-qld-law-changes-causes-employment-discrimination/
      All the other state legislations basically define injury and ‘in the course of employment’ and state if you suffer from pre-existing injury/illness and you did not disclose that, you will not get to go on workcover. So, it’s always in your best interest to disclose pre-existing injuries/illnesses because if you aggravate that injury for example with a new employer, you will want workcover benefits. However what we’re saying is that if you are sure your injury will not aggravate and not affect the inherent requirements of your job then perhaps not disclosing is the way, because it is extremely hard to get new employment once injured.

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  2. @WCV3 how does this all work when you are stuck with a WC return to work provider (ie NABENET)? I had jobs lined up 2 yrs ago and they had to approve work site/employer/ job requirements. No chance of keeping WC claim private. They discussed my claim at length (from what I heard) with employer. Being an ex employer I would hire WC victim but only if I knew them. I watched a friends business destroyed by a dodgy claimant and QBE incompetent handlings (13 yrs ago). Its a sh*t setup and can’t see how it would ever work fairly for any WC victim. What to do??

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  3. WC sucks when u r injured at work everyone thinks you’re a fake regardless of the type or seriousness of ur injury. The more honest u r the more problems come ur way! There is really not ONE person or group who truly help injured workers in Australia. We r looked upon as bludgers, the injury is “our” fault no matter how it happened! And no one cares a damn! Try applying for a job over 50 and get doors slammed in your face because now ur old and injured so why would we bother employing u! I’ve been working in my industry for over 30 years but if u r asked to declare ur injury ur screwed! No benefits, no job, how r we to survive the mortgage, kids, enjoy life when injury has permanently damaged our bodies and ruined our lives! I was assaulted by a colleague who to date had got away with her punch to my head? Where is justice? She was sleeping with the boss so who believes my side? Good luck?

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