Media Releases

MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA endorses WorkCover Queensland’s decision that PhD students are workers

8 Jul 19

CAPA endorses WorkCover Queensland’s decision that PhD students are workers

WorkCover Queensland has determined that Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students on stipends are considered workers under the Queensland Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, and thus their stipends are considered to be wages for the purposes of workers’ compensation insurance.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes this determination. It is a landmark decision that HDR students in Queensland are now rightfully entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries sustained while conducting their research.

WorkCover based their determination on factors including that the university has a large amount of control over how and where the research is conducted, that research students’ work cannot be delegated to others, that the students have access to leave benefits, and that their stipend can be terminated by the university for unsatisfactory performance.

HDR students contribute substantially to their universities’ research output, and regularly work on the projects of their supervisors and colleagues. WorkCover’s ruling is a recognition of the importance of postgraduate research students to the research sector.

It is unjust that HDR students are often treated as salaried employees, often staying in their labs or offices far beyond standard working hours at the behest of their supervisors, but are paid below minimum wage.

We therefore call on Australian universities to raise the value of their stipends to at least minimum wage, and to offer stipends to all full time HDR students, in recognition that their contributions are a form of employment.

We thank WorkCover Queensland for their decision to recognise the rights of postgraduate students.
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993