We have prepared frequently asked questions that provide workers, employers, insurers and health care practitioners with information about the impacts of COVID-19 on the workers compensation scheme.
Our COVID-19 hub for injured workers and road users has information to help people injured at work to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the workers compensation scheme.
We are working with insurers to minimise the potential premium impact of workers compensation claims arising from COVID-19 on individual employers. We are considering various options, for example excluding COVID-19 claims from premium calculations.
We are working through the details of the Government’s new JobKeeper payment, including any impacts this may have on calculating workers compensation insurance premiums.
We will provide further information once this becomes available.
We are working through the details of the Government’s new JobKeeper payment and how this may affect workers compensation payments.
We will provide further information once this becomes available.
We have been proactive in managing hygiene and implementation of risk control measures for my staff in the workplace, but I have staff that have reported they have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace. What do I do?
Workers compensation is a ‘no fault’ scheme.
If you have staff members diagnosed with COVID-19 and their employment was the main contributor to them getting the disease, they must notify you.
As an employer you must then inform your workers compensation insurer of any workplace injury you become aware of, within 48 hours.
The insurer must commence weekly payments of compensation within 7 days of notification unless they have a reasonable excuse.
If you have not been notified of a decision within 7 days, you can contact SIRA for assistance on 13 10 50.
As an employer, you are required to inform your workers compensation insurer of any workplace injury you become aware of within 48 hours.
For the COVID-19 claim to be compensable, work activities must be proven to be the main contributing factor (or substantial contributing factor for exempt workers) to your worker contracting the virus. The insurer will assess each claim on its individual merits. Recent changes mean that workers in prescribed employment will automatically be presumed to have contracted the virus at work (further information on the new presumption is available here).
The insurer must commence provisional weekly payments of compensation within seven days of notification, unless they have a reasonable excuse.
If you have not been notified of the insurer’s decision within seven days, you can contact SIRA for assistance on 13 10 50 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We've made changes to make it easier to access a certificate of capacity.
Treating physiotherapists and treating psychologists can now issue certificates of capacity. The initial certificate must continue to be issued to the worker by a doctor. However, a treating physiotherapist or treating psychologist can assess injuries within their area of expertise and issue the second and subsequent certificates to a worker. This makes it easier for workers to receive a certificate, without needing to make contact with the doctor.
Where appropriate, a certificate can also be issued via a telehealth consultation. This type of consultation occurs by either video conference or telephone conference.
For other workers, their treating physiotherapist or psychologist may be able to issue a certificate. You should contact the insurer for advice.
You should talk to the insurer about what support and assistance may be available to you.
We have also modified some of our programs that support workers and employers with recovery at work in light of COVID-19. More information about these programs is available on our website .
I have employed a worker using the JobCover Placement Program, but I can no longer offer work. What can I do?
If you have had to scale back or close your workplace temporarily due to the impact of COVID-19, the JobCover Placement Program can be put on hold until you are able to resume operations.
This means the duration of the JobCover Placement Program for the worker will be extended by the time employment has been on hold.
You can suggest that your worker contacts the insurer who is managing their claim to advise them of this change.
You should also keep a record of the period you have placed employment on hold to support your claim for incentive payments. This will support your claim when your business re-opens along with the usual proof of payment of wages to the worker.
Insurers are reminded the legislation allows certificates of capacity to be issued for periods greater than 28 days.
If the person giving the certificate states the special reasons for the longer period and the insurer is satisfied that, for the special reasons stated, the certificate should be accepted, then a certificate may cover a period greater than 28 days (see section 44B of the Workers Compensation Act 1987).
Longer certificates reduce the risk for workers and GPs potentially being exposed to coronavirus. Insurers are encouraged to proactively discuss longer certificates with workers and providers where appropriate.
Recent amendments establish presumptive rights to compensation for certain workers who contract COVID-19. The changes mean that workers in prescribed employment who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are automatically presumed to have contracted the disease in the course of their employment (note that the presumption may be rebutted if established that the contraction of COVID-19 is not related to work or employment).
Eligible workers are also presumed to be incapable of work until 21 days from the date of injury, or if the worker still has COVID-19 at this date, until the date marking the end of the worker’s incapacity on the worker’s certificate of capacity.
Further information about the COVID-19 presumption is available here .
Health practitioner questions
Prior to 17th April 2020, telehealth services required pre-approval from the insurer and must have been consented to by all parties – the worker, practitioner and insurer.
Post 17 April 2020, many treatment services delivered by telehealth no longer require insurer pre-approval.
Changes to the Workers compensation guidelines and Fees Orders now allow the following consultations to be delivered by telehealth without insurer pre-approval:
- Nominated treating doctor consultations
- Medical specialist consultations for the injury within three months from date of injury, where referred by the nominated treating doctor
- Allied health services listed in table 4.2 of the WCG as exempt from pre-approval
- All treatment services delivered within 48 hours of the injury.
Practitioners must consider the appropriateness of this mode of service delivery for each worker on a case-by-case basis.
Practitioners are responsible for delivering telehealth services in accordance with the principles of professional conduct and the relevant professional and practice guidelines to ensure that all care is taken to ensure the safety, appropriateness and effectiveness of the service.
New fees orders came into effect from 1 January 2021:
- Workers Compensation Medical Practitioners fees order effective 1 January 2021
- Workers Compensation Orthopaedic Surgeon fees order effective 1 January 2021
- Workers Compensation Surgeon fees order effective 1 January 2021
- Workers Compensation Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy fees order effective 1 January 2021
- Workers Compensation Psychology and Counselling fees order effective 1 January 2021
- Workers Compensation Accredited Exercise Physiology fees order effective 17 April 2020
- Workers Compensation Independent Consultant fees order effective 17 April 2020
- SIRA telehealth item numbers for medical practitioners 2021
- 2020 SIRA rates for General Practitioners No.2
I am concerned about treating my patients within the workers compensation system due to the spread of COVID-19. What measures can I put in place to minimise potential transmission?
To prepare and manage the risk of COVID-19 in your practice, please refer to the advice from NSW Government for information and advice on COVID-19 (coronavirus) for community and businesses in New South Wales.
You can also consider providing your patients with telehealth consultations.
If I work in the health industry and contract COVID-19 from a patient, can I lodge a workers compensation claim?
If you contract COVID-19, you should notify your employer immediately.
Your employer will then notify the insurer within 48 hours of receiving notification of your workplace injury.
Recent changes mean that workers in prescribed employment (including the health care sector) are automatically presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work, unless the contrary is established. Further information about the new COVID-19 presumption is available here.
The insurer must commence provisional weekly payments of compensation within seven days of notification, unless they have a reasonable excuse.
If you have not been notified of the insurer’s decision within seven days, you can contact the Workers Compensation Review Officer (WIRO) for assistance on 13 94 76, through their online complaints form or by email at email@example.com.
I am a doctor and plan to provide treatment via telehealth methods to some of my patients where this approach is appropriate. How do I bill for these services?
SIRA has introduced 53 telehealth item numbers for medical practitioners, for use from 17 April 2020. Medical practitioners are to bill for telehealth professional consultations using the same AMA Fees List item number normally billed for a face to face consultation, with the addition of a ‘T’ as a suffix to the item number - e.g. AA020 becomes AA020T when delivered by telehealth. For General Practitioners these are summarised in the 2020 Rates for General Practitioner s No.2.
I am conducting a telehealth consultation with an injured person. How can they complete the ‘Injured person’s consent’ section on a Certificate of Capacity?
When you conduct a telehealth consultation, the ‘Injured person’s consent’ section of the Certificate of Fitness does not need to be filled in by your patient. You are not required to send the certificate to them to complete.
You still require the injured person’s consent to share the certificate with another party, including the insurer. This is to comply with privacy laws. You can ask for the person’s consent verbally during the telehealth consultation or by email.
Examinations can be undertaken by video (not telephone) in limited and special circumstances. As per changes to the Workers compensation guidelines, the COVID-19 pandemic is considered a special circumstance. SIRA has recently issued guidance on conducting independent medical examinations, they can be found here.
I am a doctor and I have been asked to perform a medicolegal assessment. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, what do I need to consider before agreeing to carry out the assessment?
When determining whether it is appropriate to accept a referral for a medicolegal examination, each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The examiner should also consider the following:
- the purpose of the assessment
- the injured person’s unique circumstances
- advice from the Federal and NSW Government, including what restrictions may be in place at that time
- the appropriate method, or combination of methods, for the assessment.
More guidance for examiners offering independent medical examinations and reports can be found here.
Certificate of capacity / certificate of fitness
The initial certificate of capacity for a work-related injury or condition must still be issued by a medical practitioner.
For work-related injuries, a subsequent certificate can continue to be provided by a medical practitioner via a Certificate of Capacity, however can now also be provided by a SIRA approved treating physiotherapist or a SIRA approved treating psychologist, who complete the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness - treating physiotherapist or psychologist.
Yes. The COVID-19 Legislative Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 was passed by NSW Parliament on Tuesday 24 March 2020.This included creating Regulation and Guideline making powers to relieve pressure on general practitioners and the overall health system during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a degree of flexibility for certification of an injured person’s ability to work.
The changes to the Workers Compensation Regulation 2016 and Motor Accident Guidelines took effect from 17th April 2020, permitting appropriately qualified treating physiotherapists and psychologists (in addition to medical practitioners) to issue subsequent certificates of capacity or fitness.
From the 17 April 2020, appropriately qualified treating physiotherapists and psychologists, as well as medical practitioners can issue a subsequent certificate of capacity.
For work-related injuries, a subsequent certificate can continue to be provided by a medical practitioner via a Certificate of Capacity and a SIRA approved treating physiotherapist or a SIRA approved treating psychologist can now complete the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness for treating physiotherapist or psychologist form.
Note the amendments do not change the requirement that a first (initial) certificate of capacity still needs to be issued by a medical practitioner.
Will other practitioners (other than medical practitioners, physiotherapists and psychologists) be able to issue subsequent certificates?
The second and subsequent certificates of capacity can only be provided by a medical practitioner, SIRA approved treating physiotherapist, or a SIRA approved treating psychologist. No other practitioners can issue certificates.
A SIRA training package for treating physiotherapists and psychologists on how to complete the Certificate of Capacity is now available on the SIRA website.
What fees can I charge for issuing the first Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness – treating physiotherapist or psychologists?
The Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy Fees Order 2020 No.3 and the Psychology and Counselling Fees Order 2020 no.3 have been updated to include a $38.00 fee. This fee can be charged for issuing the first subsequent certificate only.
These changes came into effect on 17 April 2020 and will be in place for 12 months unless revoked or amended earlier.
No. To issue a certificate, the physiotherapist or psychologist must:
- be SIRA approved
- be treating the person they are assessing for capacity
- complete the Certificate of Capacity/Certificate of Fitness – treating physiotherapist or psychologist form
Note: If the worker seeking a certificate has more than one type of injury and is being treated by more than one type of practitioner, the treating physiotherapist/psychologist needs to consider whether the worker should be referred back to their medical practitioner to certify their overall capacity.
For example, where a worker has both a primary psychological injury and primary physical injury, but the physical injury is not impacting on their work capacity, however the psychological injury is impacting, it may be appropriate for the psychologist to issue the certificate. However where both injuries are impacting capacity for employment, the worker should be referred back to their medical practitioner to issue the certificate.
Some allied health practitioners must be approved by SIRA before providing services in the NSW workers compensation system. These practitioners include:
- chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, and psychologists who have general registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
- exercise physiologists who are accredited with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA)
- counsellors who are:
- full clinical members of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), or
- mental health social workers accredited with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), or
- level 3 or 4 members of the Australian Counsellors Association (ACA).
Practitioners in the disciplines listed above who are not SIRA approved cannot deliver treatment services to workers in the NSW system.
All allied health practitioners formerly approved by WorkCover NSW are now deemed to be approved by SIRA. Their provider number remains the same.
The SIRA provider number is specific to the allied health practitioner and must be provided on all tax invoices and requests to the insurer. Services must not be delivered by any other person using the allied health practitioner's provider number.
You are not required to obtain a new provider number for each different location where you deliver services or if you change your employment. However, you must notify SIRA of any change in you contact details within 14 days by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To obtain a SIRA provider number, practitioners must review the guideline for approval of treating allied health practitioners and then complete the application form
If you meet the appropriate qualifications and requirements, you must satisfactorily complete the three-part allied health practitioner online training course. This is to ensure all practitioners working within the NSW workers compensation system are:
- appropriately skilled to help workers achieve a safe and durable recovery at/return to work, and
- aware of requirements for the delivery of services in the system.
Please note: you must obtain confirmation from us that your SIRA provider number is active before delivering treatment services.
Where it is identified by the treating physiotherapist that the worker requires additional treatment and investigations, they should refer the worker back to their nominated treating doctor by providing information on their recommendations through the normal preferred communication channels.
What should I do if I am asked to host a case conference with the injured person and a rehabilitation provider that the Nominated Treating Doctor would normally do?
A treating physiotherapist may attend a case conference with a rehabilitation provider and injured person where capacity and/or their treatment approach is the only aspect under review. If the treating physiotherapist is asked to host a case conference where they are asked for a comprehensive review of the injured person’s overall injury management, the party requesting the case conference must make contact with the nominated treating doctor to schedule a case conference.
Am I required to sign Return to Work Plans and other documents that the Nominated Treating Doctor would normally do?
Treating physiotherapists can only certify an injured person’s capacity for work by completing the certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness - treating physiotherapist or psychologist. All other documents including Return to Work Plans are to be signed by the worker’s nominated treating doctor.
Is it my role to keep the nominated treating doctor informed of changes to the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness?
The treating physiotherapist should always keep the nominated treating doctor informed when changes are made to a person’s capacity to work or treatment regime as evidence demonstrates that communication and cooperation among the worker’s support team is critical in improving health and recovery at work outcomes.
How do I discuss with the nominated treating doctor the best timing to hand back the role of completing the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness?
The broadening of provisions enabling physiotherapists to certify are a temporary measure designed to relieve pressure on general practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic. If the injured person is still requiring treatment and the issue of certificates towards the end of this 12 month period, the treating physiotherapist should then discuss with the nominated treating doctor when it is most appropriate to transfer the role of completing the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness back to them.
Where can I obtain further assistance with questions regarding completion of the Certificate of capacity/certificate of fitness?
Further information regarding the completion of the Certificate of Capacity/Certificate of fitness can be found on the SIRA website in the SIRA training package.
If you have further questions you can contact SIRA at 13 10 50.
Contact SIRA for support
Our team is here to support you at this challenging time. Please call us on 13 10 50 or email email@example.com if you have any concerns.