Issue 114 – Michael’s Corner

James Murphy

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← Issue 114 – Superannuation 2021

Michael’s Corner

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While COVID-19 has created opportunities for the gig economy, it has also helped bring some challenges to light.

According to Safe Work Australia, gig economy platforms need to be aware of employers’ general obligations under workers’ compensation law.

The gig economy in Australia

The gig economy is a growing part of Australia’s workforce, with over 100 platforms currently operating in person, remotely or online within Australia.

The most common platforms are transport (ride sharing) and food delivery. Other platforms service odd jobs, one-off domestic tasks, care services, professional services like web design, graphic design, coding, photography, translation and clerical or administrative work.

On 02 November 2021, Safe Work Australia (SWA) published a fact sheet about workers’ compensation and the gig economy. Their purpose is to encourage gig workers to enquire into their workers’ compensation entitlements and inform platforms of their obligations under workers’ compensation laws.

Broad overview

  • The gig economy is also called the platform economy, share economy, and on-demand work.
  • Participants (gig workers) in the gig economy are engaged by or access work through an app or website (the platform).
  • The app or website is produced and managed by the platform owner.
  • Gig workers undertake a short-term service or provide a product to a customer, called the end-user.
  • The different working arrangements within the gig economy mean that gig workers may not be employed by the platform owner.
  • Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance to protect both the employer and the worker if a worker is injured at work.

Workers’ compensation and the gig economy

Workers’ compensation coverage for gig workers will depend on the rules of the particular Commonwealth, state, or territory workers’ compensation jurisdiction you work in.

All employers must have workers’ compensation insurance for their workers. Whether a platform owner is an employer under workers’ compensation law will depend on the working arrangements and the relevant workers’ compensation scheme rules.

Workers’ compensation schemes in Australia will consider a range of factors to decide if a gig worker is employed by the platform and eligible for workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Schemes may consider certain factors such as:

  • Control over whether to take on work
  • Ability to choose working hours
  • Provision of tools and equipment
  • Arrangements for payment of income
  • Who has responsibility for the cost of fixing any faults or repairing damage?
  • Can work be delegated, or is a worker required to do the work personally?

If a scheme finds that a gig worker is, in fact, employed by a platform owner, the scheme may seek to recover insurance costs from the platform owner.

For gig workers who are hurt in the line of their work, access to workers’ compensation may depend on whether they are an employee or independent contractors.

“It may be helpful to contact your platform owner to ask them to confirm your employment status in writing,” the fact sheet said.

“Many workers in the gig economy are engaged by platforms as ‘independent contractors.’ Independent contractors are not usually covered by workers’ compensation and instead have other types of income and injury insurances available to them.”

Coverage for workers’ compensation will depend on the type of work done and how the platform owner engages the worker. Workers’ compensation schemes may consider certain factors such as:

  • Does the worker have control over whether to take on work?
  • Can they choose the hours that they work?
  • Do they need to provide their own tools and equipment?
  • How are they paid income?
  • Are they responsible for the cost of fixing any faults or repairing damage?
  • Are they required to do the work personally, or can they delegate the work to someone else?

“If you are unsure whether you are covered by workers’ compensation, you should consider contacting the relevant workers’ compensation authority (details below). Or obtaining independent advice to confirm whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage if injured,” the fact sheet said.

“If you are not covered for workers’ compensation, and the platform owner does not have an injury or accident policy. You will need to cover your own costs for medical and rehabilitation expenses.”

What is workers’ compensation insurance?

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides support to workers injured at work. Support may include one-off lump sum payments, income replacement, medical and rehabilitation expenses.

There are separate workers’ compensation schemes for workers in the Commonwealth and workers in each state and territory. Each scheme is established by legislation that sets out the coverage, eligibility criteria, entitlements, and obligations.

Other insurance options for gig workers

  • Some platform owners provide personal injury and income protection insurance as well as compensation for family or dependents. You should talk to your platform owner/operator to find out if you have coverage. For example, if you are a delivery rider or driver, you may be covered by transport accident insurance.
  • Suppose your platform does not cover you for workers’ compensation or another type of insurance. In that case, you should consider taking out your own personal accident or illness insurance.

Do platform owners need workers’ compensation insurance?

  • For advice and assistance, please contact your relevant workers’ compensation authority.

Advice may vary between jurisdictions – so it’s important to contact the workers’ compensation authority in your state or territory for more specific information.

Workers’ compensation authorities contact information
NSW – State Insurance Regulatory Authority
                 Website for Languages other than English:
Email: [email protected]

Phone: 13 10 50


QldOffice of Industrial Relations


Website for Languages other than English:
Phone: 1300 362 128

Vic – WorkSafe Victoria


Website for Language other than English: 
Email: [email protected]

Phone: 1800 136 089

ACT – WorkSafe ACT


Website for Languages other than English:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 13 22 81

SA – ReturnToWorkSA


Website for Languages other than English:
Email: [email protected]

Phone: 13 18 55

NT – NT WorkSafe

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1800 250 713

WA – WorkCover WA
Website:                     Website for Languages other than English:
Phone: 1300 794 744
Tas – WorkSafe Tasmania
Website:           Website for Languages other than English:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 6166 4600 (outside Tasmania) or 1300 366 322 (within Tasmania)
Commonwealth – Comcare


Website for Languages other than English:
Phone: 1300 366 979

Food for thought…

  • Companies need to provide safeguards for people who generate income for them.
  • Gig economy drivers experience fatigue, pressure to violate traffic regulations and distraction from their phones.
  • Drivers have little health and safety training and experience occasional collisions and near misses on a daily basis.
  • This unregulated area of work is contributing to road safety risks for the workers themselves and to others.
  • Young people who work using two-wheeled vehicles seem particularly vulnerable to collisions

Please note that this is general advice for information only. Any application of legislation and/or Industrial Relations or contractual requirements may require professional advice to suit your individual circumstances. If you have a question for Michael’s team, email us at [email protected] or sign-up for a Buzz Session…