Journal of Work and Ideas


Volume 1

Compensating work injuries for precarious workers: an historical perspective

By Joellen Riley Munton & Keith Harvey

Media attention to serious accidents affecting on-demand food delivery workers has prompted debate about whether (and if so how) such workers should be provided with insurance coverage for work-related injury. This article reviews current workers’ compensation laws in the Australian states, and interrogates the historical rationale for the introduction of special provisions deeming certain kinds of workers as ‘employees’ for the purpose of coverage notwithstanding that they were not engaged under employment contracts. We discover that arguments which convinced parliaments in the 1900s, 1920s and 1950s to include the likes of ‘tributers’ and ‘pick up’ workers in the past, are equally persuasive today.

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