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Injury and illness

Many workers will be affected by injury or illness at some stage of their working life. Disability discrimination in the workplace is against the law and employers are required to treat workers who are injured or ill fairly.

Discrimination against injured or ill workers at work may include:

  • firing or demotion
  • denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, bonus pay, training or any other benefits
  • unreasonable workplace policies, practices and procedures.

Employers are also liable if staff members discriminate against each other because of injury or illness.

Returning to work after injury or illness

If you are returning to work after an injury or illness, your employer should make reasonable adjustments to help you, regardless of whether your injury or illness happened in or outside of work.

Employers have a right to check with a doctor whether a worker can do their job safely. For example, a receptionist recovering from a sprained ankle is probably still able to do her job safely but a bus driver with an eye injury might not be able to see well enough to drive safely.

If a worker is unable to perform their core duties, the employer is not expected to keep a position open indefinitely or make adjustments that cause unjustifiable hardship. For example a small business would not have to alter a work vehicle for an injured worker if the cost was too high.

What your employer should do

If you have been injured or ill and are trying to return to work, your employer should:

  • make reasonable changes to the workplace or your hours to help you return safely
  • allow you to go back to your normal job if your doctor agrees
  • provide suitable alternative work if necessary
  • be actively involved in your rehabilitation and return to work if the injury was work-related
  • ensure you are not treated unfairly, bullied or harassed because of your injury or illness.

South Australian workers with a work-related injury or illness are often assisted to return to work by Workcover. WorkCover also requires that workers be actively involved in their return to work.

What to do if you have problems

If you lose your job because of your injury or illness, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal. Unfair dismissal claims generally must be made within 21 days.

If you have been treated unfairly because of your injury or illness at work, or when trying to return to work, you may be able to lodge a disability discrimination complaint. Contact us for advice.

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