Following my post Compensation for the death of NSW volunteer firefighters (February 8, 2020) I was asked:
When you have a moment, please could you briefly tell us the law in the other states and territories?
My answers assume we are talking about members of the various volunteer fire brigades. These answers represent the maximum values. In every case compensation on death is for the benefit of dependants, not the deceased so there are formulas involved.
My answers are:
I can find no easy answer to the question in the ACT. A member of the ACT RFS should direct that question to the RFS.
The Northern Territory
In the Northern Territory a volunteer firefighter is taken to be a worker for the purposes of the Return to Work Act 1986 (NT) (s 3(8)) so is entitled to workers’ compensation under that scheme. The lump sum for the benefit of dependant spouse and/or children is ‘364 times average weekly earnings at the time the payment is made’. There does not appear to be a table with current values so the calculation will have to be made each time.
In Queensland the provision is somewhat odd, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) s 15 says:
(1) WorkCover may enter into a contract of insurance for this subdivision with the authority responsible for the management of the State’s fire services.
(2) The contract may cover a volunteer firefighter or a volunteer fire warden (“volunteer” ).
(3) A person covered by the contract is entitled to compensation for injury sustained only while attending at a fire, or practising, or performing any other duty, as a volunteer.
(4) However, a person covered by the contract is also entitled to compensation if the person is a specified volunteer firefighter who sustains an injury that is a specified disease.
That is, it says Workcover may, not must enter that contract. Further the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Qld) s 154C says the Commissioner ‘must enter into a contract of insurance with WorkCover…’ (emphasis added) to insure SES members, but there is no equivalent mandatory obligation with respect to members of rural fire brigades.
The lump sum death benefit for a worker leaving dependants is based on a formula taking into account whether or not there is a dependant spouse and if there are children under 16 or students. The current lump sum benefit is $637,250.00 (Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) s 200 and WorkCover Queensland, Workers’ compensation benefits including QOTE (Date of injury on or after 31 August 2017).
In South Australia a volunteer firefighter is presumed to be employed by the Crown and is therefore a ‘worker’ (Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) s 4 and Schedule 1; Return To Work Regulations 2015 (SA) r 69). The maximum lump sum benefit paid to the dependants of a worker who dies at work, as at 1 January 2020, is $521,158 (s 61 and Return to Work SA Schedule of Sums, 29 January 2020).
In Tasmania (Fire Service Act 1979 (Tas) s 130):
For the purposes of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and the Asbestos-Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Act 2011, the [Fire Service] Commission shall be deemed to be the employer of all persons appointed or employed pursuant to’ [the Fire Service Act 1979 (Tas)].
Volunteers are ‘appointed’ (s 26). The maximum lump sum on death (again depending on the number and age of dependants) is 415 units. A unit is ‘The amount represented by the basic salary’. It is currently $910.87 (https://worksafe.tas.gov.au/topics/compensation/workers-compensation/information-for-employers/basic-rate-and-salary-indexation) so the maximum lump sum is 415 x $910.87= $378 011.05.
In Western Australia ‘A responsible agency must effect and keep current insurance providing compensation for injury caused to present and former volunteers…’ (Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998 (WA) s 36ZQ). The insurance must provide benefits equivalent to those provided to employees under the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA) (Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998 (WA) s 36ZR).
The maximum death benefit under the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA) is ‘250% of the prescribed amount calculated as at the date of the worker’s death’ (s 18(2) and Schedule 1A cl 4). The prescribed amount is currently $232,050.00 (https://www.workcover.wa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Indexation-of-Workers-Compensation-Payments-2019-20.pdf) so the maximum death benefit is $580 125.
Further to this post a correspondent wrote and said:
respect to compensation for death etc. The answer I received was quitegeneral, but it was essentially that ACT RFS volunteers are ACTGovernment employees for workers’ compensation purposes.Section 4A of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988(Cth) provides that the ACT may be declared a Commonwealth authorityfor the purposes of that Act, if the Chief Minister so requests. Thereis such a declaration in force, and the ACT is a premium payer in theComcare scheme.The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Definition of ACTEmployee – Emergency Management Volunteers) Declaration 2016 says thatACT emergency service volunteers are taken to be employees of theTerritory, for the purposes of the SRC Act.Would it be correct to say that the statutory rates provided by theSRC Act would therefore apply to the death of an ACT RFS volunteer, asthey would for a Commonwealth employee?The maximum lump sum payment (depending on dependents etc) listed onComcare’s website is $562,978.81.