GN 4.1 Interpreter services

Published: 12 August 2019
Last edited: 12 August 2019

Application: This guidance applies to exempt workers.


Workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may face additional difficulties navigating the workers compensation system. Additionally, workers who are are deaf, hard of hearing and/or speech-impaired may require accessibility support.

Appropriate use of interpreters ensures equitable services for workers whose first language is not English or who are hearing-impaired.

This guidance provides guidance to insurers on the use of an interpreter in the management of a claim.

S28. Interpreter services
Workers will have access to qualified and culturally-appropriate interpreter services in the worker’s nominated language.

When to use an interpreter

As outlined in Standard of practice S28. Interpreter Services, insurers are expected to engage the services of a qualified interpreter if the worker:

  • asks for an interpreter
  • indicates a preference for communicating in their own language
  • does not appear to understand or answer questions
  • is not able to be understood.

If there is any doubt about a worker’s ability to understand or communicate in English then an interpreter should be used.

Interpreter costs are covered under section 64A of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (the 1987 Act). There is no Fees Order for interpreter costs.

Only qualified interpreters should be used

The use of family members or friends to interpret for the worker does not ensure impartiality. There is a risk of a breach of confidentiality and their interpreting of technical terminology is untested.

Using an interpreter

Certified interpreters are required to adhere to the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators’ Code of Ethics covering professional conduct, confidentiality, competence, impartiality, accuracy and respect for role boundaries.

Where possible, insurers should accommodate a worker’s reasonable request as to cultural preferences (for example, the gender of the interpreter).

If there is any doubt about a worker’s ability to understand or communicate in English then an appropriately qualified interpreter should be used.

Interpreters accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) should be engaged (for languages where this accreditation is available). Where applicable, insurers should engage an interpreter who speaks the same dialect as the worker.

Auslan interpreters (and the use of tele-typewriters as required) should be considered for workers who are hearing or communication impaired.

The National Relay Service (NRS) assists Australians who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or have speech impairment to communicate with voice callers.

In NSW, a number of private companies as well as the Deaf Society offer Auslan and related interpreting services.

There may be times where face-to-face interpreting is the most effective way of communicating complex, lengthy or technical matters.

This is particularly important if it relates to a decision that impacts a workers’ entitlements to compensation, and/or is subject to review or appeal.

Use of a telephone interpreter service

A telephone interpreting service can be a valuable resource if an insurer has important information to convey to the worker. Such situations might include the need for urgent communication or where the worker lives in a rural or regional area, some distance from the insurer.

How to work effectively with an interpreter

The following will help in appropriate and effective communication with an interpreter.

Before the communication:

  • check with the interpreter that they have no personal relationship with the worker
  • brief the interpreter on the situation, what the goal of the interaction is and the information that is to be covered
  • for face-to-face communication, consider the room layout and seating arrangements, for instance, you may wish to arrange the seating in a triangle so that you are facing the worker. For Auslan interpreting, the interpreter should sit opposite the worker
  • allow additional time for the interaction.

During the communication:

  • introduce yourself and the interpreter to the worker
  • explain the role of the interpreter to the worker, and that the interpreter will only interpret what you and the worker have said
  • provide a break if the interaction is long
  • talk directly to the worker and maintain eye contact with them
  • speak slowly, clearly and naturally
  • avoid jargon
  • pause at the end of each sentence
  • do not leave the worker and the interpreter alone at any time.