Harrington v Heathscope
In a decision delivered by the Full Tribunal of the South Australian Employment Tribunal on 11 July 2017, the Tribunal determined that it had the power to determine what is suitable employment for an injured worker.
Ms Harrington was employed as a nurse. Over the years she sustained a number of injuries and is now partially incapacitated for work. Her employer offered her administrative duties as suitable employment. Ms Harrington indicated that she did not wish to be transferred to the new position and wanted to continue working as a nurse. The employer would not agree. Ms Harrington requested that the Tribunal intervene and determine whether the employment offered was suitable. The employer objected on the grounds that as it had offered suitable employment, the Tribunal could not interfere in its decision.
The Full Bench of the Tribunal did not agree with the employer and determined that “The Tribunal must have jurisdiction to determine whether the employment which has been offered to the worker is suitable employment or not”.
This is a very important decision about a fundamental part of the Return to Work Scheme. A key object of the Scheme is returning to work and the Tribunal was given powers to require the employer to provide suitable duties. The Tribunal has shown that it is clearly willing to exercise those powers in the manner intended and will take an active rather than theoretical role.
What does this mean for injured workers?
For injured workers, this means they can have access to the independent umpire to resolve disputes about whether the employer offered is suitable employment for their injuries in a “hands on” manner.
Please refer to the official decision, by clicking the link below. If you require any further information, please contact us on 1800 324 324 or send us a message.