How Clean is Clean? Comcare Case

The AAT has denied an extra cleaning allowance to an injured worker who argued that keeping a meticulous home was an essential part of her culture. The AAT found that the general population, rather than the worker’s specific culture, was the correct reference point for determining what constituted a reasonable standard of maintenance.

The worker, whose background was Serbo-Croatian, injured her back in 1995 and had not worked since. She began receiving assistance to help her maintain her home and garden in 1998. In 2013, Comcare reviewed her allowance, and ruled that she was entitled to two hours of home maintenance a week and two hours of gardening maintenance a fortnight until June 30 2014.

The worker asked the AAT to review this determination, alleging that she could not maintain her home to the level she expected within the allocated hours. Instead, she claimed she needed two hours of cleaning a day, or at least two sessions of two-to-three hours a week. She also claimed that she needed at least three hours of gardening a week.

The worker argued that this extra allocation was necessary because her traditional and religious values meant she needed to keep a meticulous home. However, two occupational therapists disagreed and argued that her existing allocation was adequate.

The AAT ruled against the worker and upheld Comcare’s decision. In doing so, it noted that under s 29(2) of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth), it needed to establish what level of maintenance was “reasonably required”. This based on her accepted injury, the size and nature of the house and garden and what assistance from other members of the household could be expected.

The AAT observed that what constituted a “reasonable standard” was objective, and any test needed to be based on the general population and not tailored for any specific cultural norm. Determining what was reasonable also meant taking into account any help she received around the home, which in this case involved looking at the contribution of the worker’s adult son and also her ex-husband, who still resided under the same roof. Both men offered a reasonable degree of assistance both in the home and garden and this was likely to continue.

The AAT concluded that the worker should continue to receive only two hours of domestic assistance a week as well as two hours of gardening a fortnight. However, it also ruled that, given her age and the degenerative nature of her injury, she should be assessed by a geriatrician for a ruling on an appropriate level of future assistance.

REF: Tracker News Headlines September 16 2014