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6.3.16 Actual Earnings and Ability to Earn in Suitable Work

Section 181 describes how the amount of Actual Earnings (AE) includes earnings from suitable work the person is doing, or able to do, having regard to their age, experience, training, qualifications and other skills.

Suitable work is defined in Section 5 of the MRCA in the following terms:

'suitable work', for a person means work for which the person is suited having regard to the following:

  • the person's age, experience, training, language and other skills;
  • the pe — rson's suitability for rehabilitation or vocational retraining;
  • if work is available in a place that would require the person to change his or her place of residence – whether it is reasonable to expect the person to change his or her place of residence;
  • any other relevant matter.

A delegate must have regard to the definition of suitable work when determining whether work is suitable for a person.  In making this assessment, regard must be paid to all four criteria, as no one criterion alone can be used to determine the issue.  Regard must also be paid to the person's individual circumstances. Age, Experience, Training, Language and Other Skills

This criterion makes it necessary to have regard to the person’s employment background. For example, if a former RAAF General Hand was injured to the extent that their work prospects were limited to sedentary office-based work, such work would be inappropriate if the person had poor literacy and numeracy skills. Similarly, work as a cleaner would generally not be considered suitable work for a former RAAF pilot or skilled Officer Engineer. Suitability for Rehabilitation or Vocational Retraining

This criterion is generally guided by a formal rehabilitation assessment, provided in accordance with Section 44 of the MRCA, of a person’s capacity for rehabilitation. A rehabilitation assessment examines a person’s transferable skills in relation to the local labour market. If there is a gap between a person’s transferable skills and the availability of work commensurate with the person’s pre-injury vocational status, then retraining may be appropriate.

The former RAAF General Hand in the example above may be provided with literacy and office skills training as part of a rehabilitation program, and therefore become suitable for clerical work.

A highly trained RAAF pilot has already demonstrated the ability to undertake training. If that pilot is unable to fly due to their service injury or disease, s/he would be suitable for retraining for new employment at a level commensurate with their previous capacity.

There may be occasions where, due to the nature of the service injury or disease, a person is so severely impaired that they are not immediately suitable for rehabilitation in a vocational sense. Incapacity delegates should work closely with the Rehabilitation Coordinator and be guided by information contained in the Rehabilitation Guide. The Rehabilitation Coordinator should be guiding the injured member through medical and psychosocial rehabilitation prior to finally considering vocational rehabilitation. Reasonable Requirement to Change Place of Residence

Where a person moves to an area of low work (without a reasonable explanation such as family support or medical need), it may be appropriate to consider suitable work in either the new location or the previous location. Assistance with removal costs should be offered where the delegate requires a person to undertake work in their previous location.

If it is unreasonable for a person to move, the work would not be suitable work. Factors affecting the reasonableness of a requirement to move could include:

· continuity of school attendance for the person’s children;

· existing or potential work of the person’s spouse;

· availability of family support;

· long-standing social networks;

· continuing contact with children after marital separation;

· availability of appropriate and affordable housing; or

· access to medical services. Any other relevant matter

This criterion encompasses a wide variety of individual circumstances in the person’s case. It includes the person’s medical restrictions, whether or not they arise out of the person’s compensable condition.

For example, a motor mechanic with recurrent shoulder problems may not be considered suitable for work in a workshop where they are required to work on vehicles on hoists, above shoulder height. This is irrespective of whether the shoulder condition is compensable.

When considering a person’s capacity for work, it is also appropriate to consider the availability of work that is suitable given the state of the local labour market.