English as a second language

Published: 12 August 2019
Last edited: 12 August 2019

Workers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds may face additional challenges in the workers compensation system.

Having a work injury and making a claim for workers compensation may involve new and unfamiliar concepts that may be magnified if English is not the worker’s first language.

Similar considerations should be made for workers with hearing impairments who may require an interpreter.

When to use an interpreter

An interpreter should be offered if the worker:

  • asks for an interpreter or requests a friend or family member interpret
  • indicates a preference for communicating in their own language
  • cannot 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.

Note: In any dispute before the Workers Compensation Commission, the Commission will provided an interpreter if a worker requires, at no cost to the worker.

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

Using an interpreter

Interpreters should be certified with the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

While the worker's friends and/or family members may be eager to help with interpretation, they may not have the necessary language skills for a complex interpretation and may lack objectivity or be bound by cultural norms. Children should not be used as interpreters.

Using a certified interpreter ensures that the interpreter is adhering to the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) code of ethics. These cover professional conduct, confidentiality, competence, impartiality, accuracy and respect for role boundaries.

While telephone interpreting is useful for short communications, and/or in urgent situations, consideration should be given to face-to-face interpretation for complex, lengthy or legal matters.

Face-to-face interpretation gives the interpreter the best opportunity to ensure that the message has been understood and received as body language can be utilised to aid the communication.