Sorry Not Sorry! Employer Protection for Apologies and Expressions of Regret

The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act) establishes a workers’ compensation scheme for Queensland – providing benefits for workers who sustain an injury in their employment. The Act outlines employers’ obligation to be covered against liability for compensation and damages either under a WorkCover insurance policy or under a licence as a self-insurer.[1]

On 22 October 2019, Queensland Parliament passed amendments to the Act which, among other things, seek to enhance the workers’ compensation claims experience for injured workers (particularly those with psychological injuries) and to further encourage improved health and safety performance by employers.

The amended legislation now provides a new Part 14 to chapter 5 of the Act entitled ‘Expressions of regret and Apologies’. The changes mean that any apology or expression of regret provided to workers following a workplace injury are inadmissible as evidence and excluded from being considered in determining liability for common law damages (i.e. in a claim for negligence against the employer).[2]

What is the difference between an apology and an expression of regret?

These terms are defined within the legislation:

  • An apology is an, “expression of sympathy or regret, or of a general sense of benevolence or compassion, in connection with any matter, whether or not it admits or implies an admission of fault in relation to the matter”[3].
  • An expression of regret is defined as “any oral or written statement expressing regret for the incident to the extent that it does not contain an admission of liability on the part of the individual or someone else”.[4] (320C)

What does this mean?

The new legislation serves as an encouragement for employers to manage their ongoing relationship with their employees. Employers can be assured that in reaching out to a worker with an apology or expression of regret they are not compromising on their position as to liability for any potential common law claim.

Indeed, an authentic apology offered with sincere compassion for the worker may meet an unspoken need of an injured and/or distressed worker. This is particularly the case in circumstances where an injured worker may have a heightened emotional sensitivity.

If you have any questions relating to employer’s making an apology or expression of regret, contact us

Call (07) 3252 0011 or email us on enquiry@corneyandlind.com.au and get in contact with our client engagement team on setting up an appointment with us today.

[1] Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, s 5.

[2] Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, s 320D; 320H.

[3] Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, s 320G.

[4] Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, s 320C

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