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Income support

For: Claimants Advocates

You may be entitled to receive income support while you are unable to work or are on a rehabilitation program. This is known as incapacity payments. Your Claims Manager will advise you if you can claim incapacity payments.


Incapacity payments explained

If you are injured, incapacity payments compensate you for loss of income until you recover from your work-related injury or illness or while you are on a rehabilitation program.

Normal weekly earnings

To determine how much compensation is owed to you, the first step is to calculate your Normal Weekly Earnings (NWE) and your Normal Weekly Hours (NWH).

Initial Normal Weekly Earnings (NWE) and Normal Weekly Hours (NWH)

Your normal weekly earnings (NWE) is an amount which is intended to fairly represent what you would have earned in a week had you not been injured. It is calculated based on your salary at the time of injury and may include overtime and allowances if relevant.

Your normal weekly hours (NWH) are the average hours (including overtime) that you worked each week during the relevant period. The NWH cannot be changed once they have been determined.

Before calculating the NWE, your employer will establish the period which they will assess your earnings information, this is known as the relevant period. The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) states that the relevant period is the two-week period immediately before the employee’s date of injury. If this period is not a fair representation of the hours you would normally work or earn, the relevant period can be changed to include any length of time that will provide a fair representation of your earnings.

Overtime

Overtime can be included in your NWE if you were required to work overtime on a regular basis before you were injured.

Allowances

Only certain allowances are included in your NWE if you were in receipt of the allowance before the date of injury. Allowances included in NWE are for:

  • conditions encountered during employment
  • special skills or qualifications
  • special duties.

Allowances for money spent or likely to be spent are not included in your NWE.

Earnings from Other Employment

Earnings from other employment are only included in the NWE if you were employed on a part-time, casual, or unpaid basis with the Australian Government. Additional income from other employment is not included in the NWE for full-time employees.

For example, if a part time census worker was also employed to stack shelves at night in a grocery store during the relevant period, then their earnings and average hours worked from that employment in the relevant period will also be included in NWE and NWH calculations.

For more information about calculating an initial NWE please visit Scheme guidance - Calculating normal weekly earnings | Comcare

Changes to your Normal Weekly Earnings (NWE)

Your NWE can be adjusted while you are receiving incapacity payments.

While you are still employed with your Commonwealth agency, your employer will provide Comcare with any NWE changes. Your NWE can increase or decrease for a variety of reasons during the course of your claim. Reasons for this can include:

  • changes in salary increment
  • separation from employment
  • promotion changes to an award or Enterprise Agreement,
  • changes in allowances
  • changes to overtime availability
  • change in your earnings due to varying their working hours, such as moving from full time to part time work.

If you are paid directly by Comcare, your NWE will increase in line with indexation on 1 July each year. See Statutory rates for compensation for indexation increase rates for NWE.

For further information about adjusting NWE go to Scheme guidance - Adjusting normal weekly earnings under section 8(10).

Employers can submit an employee’s NWE through the 'Employer' section of the Online forms portal or by completing the Normal weekly earnings advice form (PDF, 172.3 KB).

For more information about calculating an initial NWE please visit Scheme guidance - Calculating normal weekly earnings.

The first 45 weeks

Incapacity payments received in the first 45 weeks after an injury are payable at a rate equal to 100 per cent of your NWE — less any amount you are actually earning.

The first 45 weeks of incapacity payments are calculated cumulatively, not consecutively.

This means:

  • if you take a single day off for medical treatment during a week, only a single day is counted toward your total 45 weeks
  • if you take a single day off for three weeks, this equals three days, or 0.6 weeks, toward the 45 weeks of incapacity.
  • if you are unfit for work for one full week this equals one week towards the 45 weeks of incapacity.

After 45 weeks

Incapacity payments are calculated differently if you are unable to work at your pre-injury capacity after 45 weeks.

From 45 weeks your incapacity payments are calculated based on the percentage of actual hours worked during the week.

See Table 1 for the percentages and compensation payable.

Table 1: Compensation payable after 45 weeks
Per cent of normal weekly hours (NWH) worked Compensation payable
Did not work 75 per cent of normal weekly earnings (NWE)
25 per cent or less 80 per cent of NWE minus actual earnings
More than 25 per cent but not more than 50 per cent 85 per cent of NWE minus actual earnings
More than 50 per cent but not more than 75 per cent 90 per cent of NWE minus actual earnings
More than 75 per cent but less than 100 per cent 95 per cent of NWE minus actual earnings
100 per cent 100 per cent of NWE minus actual earnings

For more information on how to apply the adjustment percentage please refer to Applying the adjustment percentage for incapacity calculations post 45 weeks.

Accessing Superannuation while on Compensation

If you access your superannuation pension or lump sum while on compensation, your incapacity payments will be adjusted to reflect the employer funded component of the superannuation benefit.

For more information on how Comcare consider your superannuation pension and lump sum please refer to Scheme guidance - Employees receiving superannuation benefits and incapacity payments.

Please let your Claims Manager know when you have accessed your superannuation if you are receiving incapacity payments. You will need to provide Comcare authority to speak to your superannuation fund

Compensation when injured within two years prior to pension age or after pension age

If you are injured in the course of your public service employment two years prior to pension age or after pension age you may be eligible for compensation for up to a maximum of 104 weeks incapacity payments.

Redemption of compensation payments

Where certain conditions are met you may be eligible for a redemption of your incapacity payments. These conditions include if:

  • You are receiving incapacity payments
  • Your gross weekly incapacity payments meet or fall below the redemption ceiling. This can be found on Statutory rates for compensation | Comcare
  • If your degree of incapacity is unlikely to change in the future based on medical evidence.

If Comcare determine you are eligible for a redemption, you will receive your future incapacity payments in a one off lump sum payment.

Redemption payments are treated as income and therefore tax is payable.

Where your capacity changes after you have received an incapacity redemption, please reach out to your Claims Manager to assess if you are eligible to receive further incapacity payments.

Residing overseas

There are requirements you may need to meet to claim incapacity payments while residing overseas.

If, after experiencing an injury or illness, you leave Australia (whether on a short-term or long-term basis) and intend to claim incapacity payments under the SRC Act, see the Information for Employees Residing or Moving Overseas information sheet (PDF, 147.8 KB) which outlines the legislative requirements and obligations that claims managers may expect you to meet.

How to claim incapacity payments

While you are currently employed by your Commonwealth agency

Submit an online form

Claim for time off work

  1. Get a medical certificate from your medical provider.
  2. Open the Claim for Time Off Work Online form.
  3. Enter your claim details and personal information and click Next to login.
  4. Fill out the form and attach required documents.
  5. Submit the form.
  6. After you submit, your employer’s human resources area receives the form and completes the employer details section. They then submit the form to us for processing.

If you need more information and detailed steps, download the:

Submit a paper form

  1. Get a medical certificate from your medical provider.
  2. Complete the Claim for Time Off Work form (PDF, 64.9 KB). You need to include information about all employment you worked, including self and voluntary employment.
  3. Send the completed form and medical certificate to your employer's human resources area.
  4. They complete the employer section of the form, including actual weekly hours and actual earnings, then submit the form to us for processing.

Update your details

Make sure you let us know if your bank account or contact details change by submitting the Update Email and Bank Details Online form for employees.

Normal weekly earnings

Employers can submit an employee’s normal weekly earnings (NWE) through the 'Employer' section of the Online forms portal or by completing the Normal weekly earnings advice form (PDF, 172.3 KB). For more information about submitting NWE download the Employer reference guide: Normal weekly earnings advice (PDF, 113.1 KB).

While you are employed by a self-insured licensee

If you work for an organisation which is a self-insured licensee, a staff member in your organisation or a third-party provider manages your claim. Speak with your human resources team for more information.

See a list of corporations and organisations with a self-insurance licence.

After separation from your Commonwealth agency

If you have an accepted workers’ compensation claim under the SRC Act, once you separate from the Australian Government, you may be entitled to continue to receive incapacity entitlements if incapacitated due to your compensable condition.

Liability for incapacity will be determined by your Comcare claims manager based on medical evidence provided. Liability for incapacity can be affected by several factors:

  • The reason for separation and your ability to earn based on medical advice
  • Superannuation accessed (Employer Funded Component)
  • Centrelink Benefits
  • DVA Pension
  • Earnings from work performed
  • Determined ability to earn (deeming).

For more information on how claims are assessed please visit How a claim is assessed.

Please note that if you return to employment with the Commonwealth agency, incapacity for a prior compensable condition where you have been paid directly Comcare will continue to be paid to you, and not through your new agency.

Information required to set you up on Comcare's payroll system

Once you have ceased employment with the Australian Government, and your Comcare Claims Manager has assessed that you are entitled to incapacity payments, we will need some information from you.

To be set up to be paid incapacity payments directly from Comcare, submit the following to your Comcare Claims Manager:

Your employer will need to complete:

On receipt of this information, Comcare will:

  • Determine the reason for separation – if you have removed yourself from suitable employment, Comcare will need to consider if you have an ability to earn.
  • Ensure all payments are made to Agency up to cessation date
  • Follow up with your Superannuation provider to confirm details of Employer funded superannuation you may be accessing; this will affect your entitlements.
  • Notify Centrelink that you may be entitled to compensation. Any benefits received will be considered earnings and Comcare will need to pay these amounts back to Centrelink, deducting these from your determined incapacity amounts.
  • Consider any earnings or hours worked post separation – these will need to be considered when determining incapacity amount.

Once all information has been received, Comcare will set you up for direct payment and if you claim incapacity.

Information required to receive ongoing incapacity payments

Incapacity payments are not automatically paid on a fortnightly basis. To receive incapacity payments, we require the following information.

It is your responsibility to:

  • Provide a Medical Certificate of Capacity for your eligible workplace injury to allow claims manager to determine liability for incapacity. Please ensure you have a medical appointment booked before the current certificate expires.
  • Provide copy of payslips of any income including part time and casual work and where you are self-employed, payslip, invoices for services to allow Comcare to correctly determine weekly rate.
  • Provide Record of Earnings (ROE) form noting hours worked per week and gross earnings for those hours. These amounts should align with payslips provided. Please note that evidence of your ROE details must be provided in the form of a payslip.
  • Notify Comcare immediately of any changes to income – commencement of job, accessing superannuation. If you do not notify Comcare of these, this may lead to an overpayment and Comcare will need to reassess your entitlements and recover this debt.

To claim incapacity, you must provide the below details by Wednesday of the week before Public Sector Thursday pay date to receive your incapacity payment on the Public Service pay date.

If details are not received by in time, your payment will be made the pay date for the next pay period.

Incapacity payments are income related payments and are taxable. You will need declare this income in your tax return. Comcare reports your incapacity payments to the ATO on a fortnightly basis and you will be able to see this in myGov account.

Case studies

Anne: Unable to work for six weeks, then returns to work gradually

Anne suffers an injury and is completely unable to work for six weeks.

During this time, Anne’s incapacity payments are calculated at 100 per cent of Anne’s normal weekly earnings. It is 100 per cent because while Anne is completely off work, she has no actual earnings.

After six weeks, Anne returns to work on a gradual return to work plan. Anne is medically fit to work three hours a day for three days a week.

During these weeks, Anne’s incapacity payments are calculated at 100 per cent of Anne’s normal weekly earnings less the amount Anne actually earns from working nine hours a week.

Greg: At 45 weeks, is gradually increasing hours worked

Greg’s claim has exceeded 45 weeks and he is on a gradual return to work plan.

Greg is currently working five hours a week out of the 37 and a half hours he worked before his injury.

Greg is working 13 per cent of his normal weekly hours and so he is entitled to 80 per cent of his normal weekly earnings, less any actual earnings he receives for working the five hours a week.

After a few weeks, Greg increases his hours as he is now medically fit to work 10 hours a week. By working 10 hours a week, Greg is working 26 per cent of the normal weekly hours and so he is entitled to 85 per cent of the normal weekly earnings, less any actual earnings for working 10 hours per week.

Greg continues to increase his hours and after a few weeks is now fit to work 20 hours a week. By working 20 hours a week, Greg is working 53 per cent of the normal weekly hours and so he is entitled to 90 per cent of the normal weekly earnings, less any actual earnings for working 20 hours a week.

James: Medically unfit to work for two years

James sustained a workplace injury two years ago and has since been medically unfit for work.

During the first 45 weeks, James’s incapacity payments are calculated at 100 per cent of James’s normal weekly earnings. It is 100 per cent because James is completely off work during this time and has no actual earnings.

After 45 weeks, incapacity payments are calculated differently—as a percentage of the normal weekly hours James works during these weeks. As James is medically unfit to work and is working no hours at all, James’s incapacity payments are 75 per cent of normal weekly earnings.

Page last reviewed: 20 March 2024

Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 17 Jun 2024

https://www.comcare.gov.au/claims/supports-benefits/income-support