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Workers compensation reforms for firefighters

New law makes it easier for firefighters to claim compensation

The law has changed to simplify the process for eligible NSW firefighters to make claims for workers compensation entitlements and support, if diagnosed with a specified primary cancer.

The Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment (Firefighters) Bill 2018 was passed by the NSW Parliament on 22 November 2018 and enables eligible firefighters diagnosed with any of 12 specified primary cancers, and who meet the corresponding minimum qualifying periods of service, to automatically be presumed to have developed the cancer because of their firefighting work or volunteer service.

The law change means that:

  • eligible firefighters diagnosed with any of the 12 specified primary cancers, and who meet the corresponding qualifying periods of employment or service, on or after 27 September 2018 are entitled to the presumption
  • there is no time limit on when a diagnosis must be made after stopping work or volunteer service as a firefighter, for the presumption to apply
  • eligible firefighters diagnosed before 27 September 2018 may be able to access the presumption retrospectively when specific circumstances are met
  • an employer can dispute the presumption by proving that the claimant’s cancer is not related to their work or service as a firefighter.

The presumption applies to paid, volunteer, current and former firefighters from the following organisations:

  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • NSW Rural Fire Service
  • Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
  • Forestry Corporation of NSW
  • Sydney Trains.

The presumption does not apply to volunteers in a NSW Fire and Rescue Community Fire Unit.

The 12 specified primary cancers and the corresponding qualifying periods of service are:

DiseaseQualifying service period
Primary site brain cancer5 years
Primary leukaemia5 years
Primary site breast cancer10 years
Primary site testicular cancer10 years
Primary site bladder cancer15 years
Primary site kidney cancer15 years
Primary non-Hodgkin lymphoma15 years
Multiple myeloma15 years
Primary site prostate cancer15 years
Primary site ureter cancer15 years
Primary site colorectal cancer15 years
Primary site oesophageal cancer25 years

The presumptive legislation has not created any new workers compensation benefits and entitlements for eligible firefighters, rather it is designed to make it quicker and easier for eligible firefighters to claim and access existing workers compensation entitlements.