There have been some recent updates to both the Qld and NSW WorkCover legislation. In NSW the changes will increase weekly benefits but timeframes for claiming are reduced. The inquiry into the QLD scheme continues.
New South Wales (NSW)
The changes to the WorkCover scheme continue to roll out.
From 1 January 2013, changes to weekly benefits for existing claims will be trialled on a section of claims and implemented in stages to ensure a smooth transition.
WorkCover NSW focus is on recovery at work, the changes to weekly benefits now provides better incentive for return to work. For the first 13 weeks injured workers are paid 95% of their pre- injury average earnings, this rate drops to 80 % for injured worker who remain off work. However for injured workers who return to work for at least 15 hours the rate will remain at 95 % of their pre- injury rate.
Although weekly benefits amounts are higher, there are timeframes applied to the entitlement which will decrease the impact on premiums and in most case weekly benefits will cease at the 2 ½ year mark. Only seriously injured workers will continue to receive weekly benefits.
The new Work Capacity Assessment are also a positive more toward lowering premiums as they now allow the Insurer to make decision to cease weekly benefits for Injured worker who may not be able to return to pre- injury duties, but they do have a capacity for suitable employment.
Claims incurring medical expenses only, have transitioned to the new scheme, and claims will move to closure within the next 12 months.
In December 2012, there was a further amendment to the regulations where legal costs may be awarded by the Commission and paid in accordance with the previous cost provisions, granted it is lodged in the Commission before 31 March 2013.
At the moment there are no legislative changes however there is an ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into the Queensland Compensation System which includes:
- the performance of the scheme in meeting its objectives under section 5 of the Act;
- how the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme compares to the scheme arrangements in other Australian jurisdictions;
- WorkCover’s current and future financial position and its impact on the Queensland economy, the State’s competitiveness and employment growth;
- whether the reforms implemented in 2010 have addressed the growth in common law claims and claims cost that was evidenced in the scheme from 2007-08;
- whether the current self-insurance arrangements legislated in Queensland continue to be appropriate for the contemporary working environment; and
- in conducting the inquiry, the committee should also consider and report on implementation of the recommendations of the Structural Review of Institutional and Working Arrangements in Queensland’s Workers’.
Any change to the legislation would be expected in July 2013.