Workers’ Compensation Changes – how are you affected?

By Michael Selinger on August 12th, 2014
  1. Work Health & Safety Act
  2. Workers' Compensation

Dangerous accident during work

[Ed Note: Over the past 2 years, States and Territories have reviewed their workers’ compensation schemes, leading to some big changes to the schemes being implemented this year.

Would you know what to do if an employer is injured at work and tries to claim workers’ compensation, now that new changes have been introduced?

Today, Michael Selinger, editor-in-chief of the Health and Safety Handbook, will outline the major changes for each State in Australia as well as federal changes which open up the Comcare scheme to more businesses.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation is available for workers who are injured at work and aims to provide them with compensation during their lost work time and to return them to work as quickly as possible.

If you run a business and employ workers, you are legally required to take out workers’ compensation insurance to cover workers who are injured at work.

Each State and Territory has separate laws, so you need to be aware of the laws that apply to your business.

How will the changes affect you?

Many of the changes outlined below are aimed at reducing costs to employers and making it easier for employers to support injured workers to return to work.

Many of the premiums for each jurisdiction have been reduced, and the overall process has been simplified, making workers’ compensation schemes easier to understand and apply.

Read on to discover the specific changes for each State and how they will affect you…]

 

Changes to workers’ compensation
 

The States and Territories have been busy reviewing their workers’ compensation schemes in the last 2 years, culminating in some significant changes this year. The focus has been on reducing premiums for employers, with an emphasis on returning to work. Below I will outline the changes in each jurisdiction and how these affect you.

NSW

Changes to workers’ compensation schemes commenced 2 years ago in NSW with major amendments to workers’ compensation to bring it back into surplus. One outcome was a significant drop in claims and criticism that the changes introduced were skewed in favour of employers to the detriment of seriously injured workers. The NSW government has recently announced further changes will be made which may swing the pendulum back slightly, for example, extending access to medical benefits for workers who suffer serious injuries to last until retirement age.

Queensland

Queensland also introduced significant changes in October 2013 which primarily focused on the rights of employers to access employee information regarding pre-existing medical conditions or claims, and an increase in penalties for cases of workers’ fraud. From 1 July 2014, the effect of those changes comes into force with the average premium rate being reduced by 17%. A simplified premium model has also been introduced for employers who pay up to $1.5 million in wages.

Victoria

In Victoria, from 1 July 2014, WorkSafe Victoria changed its name to the Victorian Workcover Authority in a move which reflects the branding of other regulators in a number of jurisdictions. The Victorian Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 also came into force from 1 July 2014. Among other changes, this Act combines previous legislation and now allows employers to seek a review of their workers’ compensation premium rates through the Civil and Administrative Council.

South Australia

In South Australia, on 6 August 2014, the Return to Work Bill 2014 (SA) was introduced into Parliament. The bill will replace the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 (SA) and has been described by the South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, as the most significant reform of workers’ compensation in more than 25 years. The new scheme is intended to focus on early intervention and better support for workers to return to work.

The intention of the new SA legislation is to create better case management. Case managers will now have to meet with workers and employers face-to-face within 48 hours of being notified of an injury that is likely to last longer than 2 weeks.  Further, there will be capped entitlements for workers who are assessed as being less than seriously injured, and they will be intensively supported to return to employment over a 2-year timeframe. The Act will also replace medical panels with independent medical assessors.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, the final report prepared by WorkCover WA on the existing workers’ compensation scheme was released for comment on 26 June 2014. It recommended that the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 be replaced. It confirmed its view that the current law had been significantly amended on a piecemeal basis over the last 30 years, resulting in a “complex and highly prescriptive statute which is difficult to understand and apply”. The report, which contains 171 recommendations, is likely to result in a significant change to workers’ compensation in WA over the next few years.

Commonwealth

In the federal scheme, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (SRC Bill) is set to pass as Parliament proposes to open up the federal Comcare scheme to more businesses.

An employer will now qualify for the scheme if it is able to meet obligations under workers’ compensation law in two or more Australian jurisdictions (known as the national employer test). This requires certain financial thresholds to be met.

This amendment makes it easier for an employer to apply to be a self-insurer or a self-insured employer under the Comcare scheme. You can download an explanation of the bill here.

Warm regards,

a

Michael Selinger
Editor-in-Chief
Health & Safety Handbook





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