Presumptive rights for career and volunteer firefighters

Information for career and volunteer firefighters about presumptive rights to compensation for specified cancers related to their service.

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Background

In 2019 the Victorian Government introduced the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019 (FPRC Act).

The FPRC Act provides a presumed entitlement to compensation under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act) for career and volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with one of 12 specified cancers and who are employed or have served as a firefighter for the relevant qualifying period.

In addition, volunteer firefighters must also meet operational requirements detailed in the FPRC Act. These requirements specify that volunteer firefighters must have attended fires to the extent reasonably necessary to fulfil their duties as a firefighter.

Overview

What presumptive rights mean

Career and volunteer firefighters who satisfy the criteria for presumptive rights now have an entitlement for compensation under Victoria’s Workers’ Compensation Scheme (the scheme).

This means that if a career or volunteer firefighter who satisfies the relevant criteria is diagnosed with a specified cancer, they no longer need to prove that the cancer is directly attributable to their service.

The presumption applies unless it can be established that the cancer was not caused by their service.

The types of cancers covered

A list of specified cancers and their relevant qualifying service periods.

Criteria

How to know whether you may be eligible

The compensation applies to career and volunteer firefighters who:

  • have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016 with one of 12 specified types of cancer
  • have served in active firefighting roles for a specified number of years, depending on the cancer type
  • are diagnosed during their service or within 10 years after they've finished their service

A partial year of service is counted as a full year of service to recognise seasonal workers. Previous service as a volunteer or career firefighter, a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee or a forest firefighter and equivalent interstate service count toward the qualifying period.

If you are a volunteer firefighter, you will also need to demonstrate that you have attended fires to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of the presumptive legislation.

Claimants without the minimum service period, who meet all other requirements, can still qualify if they can demonstrate they attended an exceptional exposure event.

What volunteer firefighters can do if they're not eligible

If you're a volunteer firefighter and your claim isn't accepted, it will be because you don't meet the requirements to be considered a 'worker' under the WIRC Act. However there are still options available for you to apply for compensation.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer firefighters can apply for compensation under the CFA compensation scheme. You can find more information on the CFA website.

What career firefighters can do if they're not eligible

If you are not eligible under the new legislation, your Agent will determine whether you qualify for compensation under the WIRC Act and let you know of the outcome.

How eligibility is decided

All career and volunteer firefighter claims for presumptive rights require an expert opinion from an independent Advisory Committee established under the legislation. The committee provides non-binding advice to WorkSafe as to whether a career or volunteer firefighter:

  • meets all the requirements including the qualifying period; or
  • meets all the requirements except the qualifying period but has attended an 'exceptional exposure event'

How an 'exceptional exposure event' is determined

Where a career or volunteer firefighter does not meet the relevant qualifying period, they can apply for special consideration to assess whether they have attended an exceptional exposure event in order to receive the presumption. The FPRC Act does not define what an exceptional exposure event is. However, the committee will consider:

  • the nature of the event
  • whether there are any relevant findings from a coroner, court proceedings or official inquiry regarding an event known to have exposed firefighters to carcinogens
  • relevant records, employer data or local knowledge
  • any other matters prescribed by the regulations

Claims

How to make a claim

You can submit the Worker's injury claim form to the organisation that engaged you as a career or volunteer firefighter.

The organisation will then provide your completed form to its WorkSafe Agent who will review the information on your form and determine whether you meet the requirements of the FPRC Act.

If you are a career firefighter and meet the requirements, the Agent will accept your claim. If you are a volunteer firefighter and meet the requirements, the Agent will refer your claim to an Advisory Committee to determine whether you have attended fires to the extent reasonably necessary to meet the requirements of the FPRC Act.

The Advisory Committee has been established to provide the Agent with an expert opinion on your claim.

What does the Advisory Committee look for?

The Advisory Committee will consider relevant records, employer data and local knowledge.

Make sure to include this information in your claim where possible.

You will also have the opportunity to provide further information directly to the Advisory Committee if needed.

The Advisory Committee will provide its expert opinion to the Agent within 10 days of receiving the request.

Once the Agent has received the expert opinion, they will assess your compensation claim and make a decision to accept or reject your claim.

How to lodge a claim if you were previously rejected under the existing scheme

If a career and volunteer firefighter injured on or after 1 June 2016 had a claim rejected under the existing workers’ or volunteers’ compensation schemes, it can be re-lodged for consideration under the presumptive rights scheme.

Compensation entitlements to be paid

Career or volunteer firefighters who qualify for compensation under the presumptive rights scheme will be entitled to the relevant volunteer compensation or workers’ compensation benefits provided by WorkSafe.

More information

Need more help?

We want to make things as easy as possible for you during this difficult and distressing time. If you have any questions about this process, please contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service or the Agent.

WorkSafe Advisory Service

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options