Supreme Court decision puts spotlight on interstate workers’ compensation

A recent Queensland Supreme Court decision highlighted the importance of workers’ compensation jurisdictions for employers that might have people working for them in more than one state or territory – or even overseas.

The Workers’ Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003 states that ‘compensation under this Act is only payable in relation to employment that is connected with this State’, and this is commonly called the State of Connection test.

The Court’s Justice Applegarth considered this test as it applied to a chef who was injured while working in the Northern Territory for a Queensland-based employer. She had previously worked for the same employer in New South Wales.

The Act provides a three-step, hierarchical test to determine which state a worker’s employment is connected with.

  • First, consider which state the worker usually works in for the relevant employment.
  • Second, if the first step does not identify a state – look to the state where the worker is usually based for their employment.
  • Third, if the first two tests do not identify a state – look at the state where the employer’s principal place of business in Australia is located.

The Act also says that in deciding whether a worker usually works in a specific state, their work history with that employer, and the intention of the worker and employer, must be considered.

Using this test, the Court concluded the worker’s employment was connected with Queensland.

In determining where the worker usually worked, Justice Applegarth considered her work history, the nature of her employment relationship, the work offered to her, and her intentions.

His Honour concluded that the worker did not usually work in any one state because the nature of her work involved moving on assignment from one place to another. His Honour also noted that the Act does not preclude other circumstances that are not mentioned in s113(6) being considered if they are relevant to a particular case.

The worker entered her employment contract in Queensland, and her employer kept in contact with her, provided instructions for the role, and paid her, all from their premises based in Queensland.

The decision then fell to the third test, and there was no dispute that the employer’s principal place of business was in Queensland.

Source: WorkSafe QLD, 8 September 2022