An Adelaide paper mill worker has faced the Adelaide Magistrate’s Court after he was found to have been playing competitive basketball while claiming WorkCover benefits.
Sokha Khat was convicted on three counts of making a false or misleading statement to WorkCover, receiving a suspended three-month jail sentence and fines of more than $3000.
While some states have recently reduced WorkCover premiums, South Australia has one of the most expensive workers’ compensation schemes in Australia. Adelaide Now reports the conviction was part of a crackdown on compensation fraud by WorkCover South Australia to yield savings of $1 million.
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Khat had been claiming benefits after suffering bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome while working in a paper mill in suburban Adelaide in January 2012, according to Adelaide Now.
He returned to work on restricted duties after receiving medical treatment and rehabilitation, but then told his WorkCover case manager he couldn’t complete these lighter duties because of his injury.
An anonymous tip off to WorkCover revealed 30-year-old Khat was playing competitive basketball during this time.
According to Adelaide Now, Magistrate Sue O’Connor said Khat’s behaviour was deceitful and appalling when sentencing him.
In addition to the suspended jail sentence, Khat was ordered to pay investigation costs of $2000, prosecution costs of $800, court costs of $280 and Victims of Crime levies.
TressCox Partner and workplace law expert Rachel Drew told SmartCompany all workers compensation systems make it very clear to applicants they must be absolutely honest with authorities about the nature of their injury. Any failure to do so is considered fraud.
“In this case it was a suspended sentence, so no jail time, but it is still considered a serious criminal penalty,” says Drew.
Drew says employers are encouraged to make fraud claims if they believe an offence has been committed.
“All workers compensation systems have quite sophisticated fraud detection units,” she says.
“Small business should be aware of their rights and understand they have a right to review the decisions WorkCover makes if they think an employee is being dishonest.”
However, Drew points out there are differences between worker’s compensation fraud and an overstatement of the injury.
She says while it is common for workers to overstate their injury, usually because they genuinely believe it is severe, it is uncommon for workers to deliberately commit the level of fraud seen in this case.
“In terms of fraud, it is not particularity common because it is a criminal offence. They have processes of detecting anything that amounts to fraud.”