Injuries and accidents in the workplace require mandatory reporting and are closely monitored. An administrative oversight to maintain workers compensation insurance is also a crime that has recently become more easy to detect.
In Western Australia an employer who allows employees to work for any amount of time while a current worker’s compensation policy is not in place can be prosecuted, under a strict liability offence regime. If found guilty, the employer will be made to pay the amount of the avoided premium plus a hefty fine. If a Company is prosecuted the fine imposed by a Court can be up to $25,000 per uninsured worker. Where a natural person is prosecuted the maximum fine is $5,000 per affected worker and the person faces receiving a criminal record which can have serious implications for their travel, future employment opportunities (including volunteer positions at sports clubs etc) and even things like eligibility for IVF treatments.
WorkCover WA investigates failures to maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance. In recent times it has become relatively easy for investigators to identify offending employers by requiring insurance companies to notify them whenever a worker’s compensation policy is not renewed.
In 2015 there has been a significant increase in the number of convictions of employers in W.A for failing to maintain worker’s compensation. Total penalties of between $3,513.71 and $25,584.87 have been imposed already this year against 16 employers. Somewhat inexplicably the largest penalty in 2015 so far was imposed on an employer who was prosecuted as a person rather than a company. The Magistrates Courts’ penalties appear to vary markedly and lack consistency.
Tips for Employers:
Take care to both ensure and insure safety.
If you are investigated or prosecuted seek legal advice promptly. Just as in any criminal prosecution you have a right to legal representation before providing any information and will usually have a right to remain silent. However cooperation will be favourably regarded in the event that you are found guilty. But any co-operation should be informed by expert legal advice, as there are many issues to be considered which significantly impact on the outcome.
With careful legal advice and representation potentially large fines can be minimised, and where possible a spent conviction granted.