Important decision for workers with psychiatric conditions

On 2 December 2020, the Court of Appeal handed down an important decision for WorkCover practitioners assisting workers at Conciliation.

In the case of McKenzie v Healthscope Operations Pty Ltd, Mr McKenzie developed a psychiatric condition and lodged a Workcover claim which was accepted following which he received weekly payments of compensation. On 20 April 2016, his payments were terminated and he requested the dispute be conciliated by the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS). Before the conciliation could be held, the dispute was settled and Mr McKenzie received a further period of weekly payments until 29 October 2016 (the settlement).

Mr McKenzie later sought an additional period of weekly payments from 29 October 2016. His employer argued that the settlement meant he could not receive any further weekly payments. A Magistrate agreed and Mr McKenzie appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal and was successful.

The Court of Appeal considered whether a private agreement like the one reached at Mr McKenzie’s Conciliation conference was enforceable. The Court found that Mr McKenzie’s entitlement to weekly payments was terminated but he could make a further application to a subsequent entitlement for weekly payments. The Court held that the private agreement was in relation to Mr Kenzie’s entitlement to weekly payments up to 130 weeks. It did not compromise any entitlement he may have after that point.

Whilst legal advice should always be obtained before accepting an offer at Conciliation, this decision is a helpful reminder that workers may still be able to claim further entitlements even after a dispute is settled at Conciliation.