Release date: 15 May 2024

Despite the Queensland Government acknowledging the need to provide workers’ compensation to the thousands of hard-working Queenslanders in the gig economy, this vulnerable part of our community has once again been overlooked in the latest slew of recommended changes currently under consideration by parliament.[1]

Gig workers do not meet the current definition of ‘worker’ in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 and therefore still do not have rights to make a workers’ compensation claim if injured on the job.

Greg Spinda from Queensland’s leading personal injury law firm, Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP), said it was hard to imagine why gig workers, who form a vital part of our economy, have once again been ignored amidst a series of positive changes currently under consideration in the Queensland Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024.[2]

“Most of us know someone operating in the gig economy or at the very least, we have used their services. We’re talking about Uber drivers, food delivery drivers and any individual contractor using mobile apps or websites to provide creative or professional services for a fee — anything from graphic design, web development, house painting or furniture assembly, to name a few,” Mr Spinda said.

“How is it fair that I am covered by workers’ compensation when I drive to a client appointment as part of my job, but an Uber or food delivery driver has no cover whatsoever when doing their everyday work?

“We have long been calling for urgent action to extend workers’ compensation rights to gig workers. Cover for gig workers was recommended by an independent review of the scheme in 2018 and nothing happened. Now again six years later, another independent review has recommended cover, and the government will not step up to protected vulnerable workers.[3]

“It is terribly unfair to both injured Queenslanders and local businesses. Laws need to evolve with the changing nature of the workforce, and they need to protect all workers.”

Mr Spinda says that employers doing the right thing – mostly small to mid-sized Queensland businesses – are also being disadvantaged because they must provide workers’ compensation coverage, while multinational digital platforms are undercutting local industries by not having to comply with any workers’ compensation standards.

“The current laws allow large corporations like Uber, DoorDash, Mable and Deliveroo to side-step any obligation to pay workers’ compensation insurance that would safeguard their workers who might get injured at work.

“Our public health system is left to pick up the tab, gig workers continue to suffer and to be treated unfairly, and the community is short-changed too because rehabilitation and return to work is beneficial to society,” Mr Spinda adds.

For 53-year-old injured worker Melissa Poole, the proposed legislation to cover gig workers would have made all the difference. Ms Poole’s life changed forever in 2023 when she was involved in an accident with another vehicle, while driving passengers on behalf of Uber.

“My injuries from the car accidents were serious. I was rear ended twice within a month and suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma, developing a fear of being on the road with other drivers tailgating.”

Ms Poole adds that the support she received from Uber, was non-existent. Add to that, the lack of government support by way of worker’s compensation and Ms Poole says she was left ‘high and dry’.

“Uber did not support or contact me after I was injured, nor offer to provide any financial support while I was unable to work and did not help in my return-to-work process.

Ms Poole adds that financial assistance such as workers’ compensation would have had a significant impact to the outcome of her health and ability to work.

“With financial support to cover daily living expenses, I could have taken the time I needed to heal before returning to work. Instead, I took one to two days off after each accident but due to financial pressures and the mounting bills to pay, I had to return to work as Uber was my only source of income.”

“I am still struggling with my injuries daily and I cannot drive for long periods. It is devastating that I cannot contribute as I used to, I’ve always been hard working and pride myself on doing it all on my own.”

Queensland President of Australian Lawyers Alliance, Sarah Grace, says the law has not kept pace with the growth and complexity of the gig economy.

“The need for this coverage is becoming more and more imperative as the gig economy grows and is becoming less safe for workers. We are regularly seeing examples of workplace health and safety practices in the gig economy that fall far short of the safe, secure workplace standards that we strive for in Queensland,” Ms Grace said.

“Gig workers should have the same access to medical treatment, and other statutory and common law benefits when they are injured at work as all ‘traditional’ workers in Queensland.

“Amending the legislation will benefit injured workers in the gig economy and their family and dependents, but it will also ‘level the playing field’ for other employers who are doing the right thing and providing a safe and regulated workplace.

“More people will be injured, and some will die without reform.”

[1] and’-Compensation-and-Rehabilitation-and-Other-Legislation-Amendment-Bill-2024—Statement-of-compatibility-5c02.pdf


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