It sounds like the start of a second rate joke, and for some coal miners, it is.
Following a work injury, many workers struggle to deal with their WorkCover obligations – let alone the obligations they still have to their employer. Whether it be maintaining medical certificates, completing return to work programs, or just grappling with the issue of ‘what do I have to tell my employer while I’m on Work Cover?’. For many of our clients we end up discussing resignation, because it is all just too much.
Resigning while on WorkCover weekly benefits is always something that needs to be carefully considered, because as a rule, WorkCover will cut off your weekly benefits as soon as you resign. But coal miners have an additional consideration – long service leave.
The link between resigning and your entitlement to long service leave payments may not be immediately obvious to a lot of workers, and it may cost them (literally) tens of thousands of dollars.
What do you need to know when considering resigning?
- In the coal mining industry, you are entitled to long service leave after completing eight years of ‘eligible service’.
- What is eligible service, I hear you ask. It is time spent in employment at a “black coal mine”. You can check with your employer to ensure that they are included in this scheme.
- Importantly, your time in different coal mines gets added together. So if you worked for five years at one mine, and three in another – that will be enough.
- Time that you are on WorkCover benefits will count towards your eight years. This means that if you resign part way through your WorkCover claim, you could be selling yourself short.
- If you have not worked your full eight years, you may still be eligible for a pro-rata payment, assuming you are resigning due to a medical disability.
Here is where a lawyer can come in very handy. Should you resign, and not do it properly (resignation letter does not specify why you are leaving, or you don’t provide your employer with appropriate medical evidence), then your employer will have no obligation to make a pro-rata payment. Then occasionally, even if you do resign properly, your employer may still code your resignation incorrectly, and if you cannot convince them to change their position, you will have a fight on your hands.
I have recently had to take a dispute to the Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission to ensure that one of our clients received the long service leave that he was entitled to. We succeeded in that dispute, and our client is now tens of thousands of dollars better off. If you are considering resigning while on WorkCover weekly benefits, and have any questions, we suggest you seek legal advice before making any decisions.