The NSW Government has announced modest changes to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme.
However, while these changes will assist thousands of injured workers, thousands will continue to miss out, as only two-thirds of the surplus will be directed to assisting injured workers and one-third will be used to lower insurance premiums.
Changes introduced in 2012 by the former NSW Minister Paul Pearce and former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers.
Despite being in surplus by $2.4 billion last December, and heading towards a $4-$6 billion surplus in coming years, the $1 billion reform package represents only a small amount of this funding.
Unions have argued that the current surplus is more than sufficient to return all lost medical benefits and income support to injured workers.
The reform package proposes a restructure of WorkCover into three agencies to separate its safety and insurance functions and to assist injured workers during the claims process.
The three new agencies to replace WorkCover NSW will be SafeWork NSW, which will be responsible for regulating health and safety in the workplace, Insurance and Care NSW (icare), will focus on improving the service delivery to injured workers as well as the tracking of all claims while a third agency, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), will regulate all state insurance schemes, including workers’ compensation & third party insurance.
The new system aims to promote safe workplaces to keep premiums down. Businesses that improve their performance in workplace safety and injury prevention will be rewarded with premium discounts of 5-20%, worth a total of $170 to $200 million.
The current threshold for injured workers with permanent impairment of their whole body will be lowered from 30% to 20%.
Any injured worker entitled to hearing aids or prosthetics, will now get these for life. Currently workers must rely on Medicare to replace these.
Workers with serious injuries of 11-20% impairment will receive medical benefits for five years.
The lump sum death benefit will be increased to $750,000, and funeral expenses for families of workers killed at work will be increased from $9000 to $15,000.
With an emphasis on injury prevention the IEU encourages members and IEU representatives to meet and discuss models that will encourage a positive safety culture within their workplace, such as the election of health and safety representatives (HSRs), ensuring HSRs are trained, and the establishment of Health and Safety Committees.
The IEU encourages any members with workers compensation matters or health and safety concerns or questions to contact their organiser to discuss these issues.