Word is out that the Baird government is looking to wind back controversial changes to the Workers’ Compensation Scheme from the 2012 O’Farrell government by restoring $1 billion in benefits to injured workers and businesses. NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet, is expected to put the new reform package to the joint party room this week with an anticipated positive response to ensue. These potential amendments come of the back of an upper house parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover, which highlighted the need for the readily swollen surplus to be returned to the medical benefits of injured workers.
The changes include a major overhaul of WorkCover to address a conflict of interest in its dual role as safety regulator and insurer. The authority will be split into three agencies to separate its safety and insurance functions and to assist injured workers during the claims process – SafeWork NSW, icare, and SIRA. Additionally, businesses that improve their performance in workplace safety and injury prevention will be rewarded with premium discounts of upto 20 percent, amounting to a predicted total of $170 to $200 million.
“Now that we are on a financially stable footing after fixing Labor’s $4.1 billion scheme deficit, we can proceed with the next stage of reform to better support injured workers, incentivise safe workplaces and keep premiums down,” Mr Perrottet said. In particular Mr Perrottet channelled in on the potential to improve injured worker’s access to medical entitlements, prostheses and hearing aids, with the overall aim of adopting a fairer system. Specifically, the wind back would factor changes including:
- Whole person impairment thresholds being lowered from 30 to 20 percent
- All people in need of prosthetics and hearing aids, who are currently denied benefits, will now get them for life
- Medical benefits will be extended from 12 months to two years for people with less serious injuries (<10% impairment)
- For more serious injuries (11 – 20% impairment) medical benefits will be met for five years
- Lump sum payments for death benefits will increase from $524,000 to up to $750,00, plus greater funeral allowances
Mr Perrottet said the reforms honour an election commitment to provide two-thirds of every dollar, above the amount needed to sustain the scheme, to support injured workers, whilst one-third is used to lower insurance premiums for business. He commented, “We have simplified the system for all who engage with it, enhanced benefits to better support injured workers, and provided substantial discounts on premiums to drive safer workplaces,”.
For further updates please follow our news link through our website & LinkedIn, and our quarterly RTW Interest Groups which provide an opportunity to liaise directly with WorkCover and Scheme Agents with respect to the scheme amendments. Stay tuned.
To read the article by SMH Click Here
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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