ACT’s new compensation scheme can heal Comcare’s damage

27th Feb 2015

Arbitrary time limits and cuts to injury and rehabilitation entitlements have no place in a genuine workers compensation scheme which protects workers’ rights, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

Yesterday the government revealed plans for a crackdown on long-term compensation payouts and other ‘add ons’ provided under the Comcare workers compensation scheme, after it was revealed there are nearly 500 ACT public servant Comcare claims that are over a year old.

However ALA ACT President Phil Schubert said this situation was a result of Comcare’s expensive, inefficient and ineffective design and was no reason to cut entitlements to injured, vulnerable workers.

“Not all people who are injured at work have desk jobs,” Mr Schubert said.

“It should be remembered that many people who are injured in the workplace, such as firefighters and security guards, do physical, dangerous work and face different risks to office workers. As a result, their injuries can be more severe and they cannot always be rehabilitated back to work quickly.”   

“The fact is that some work injury cases take a long time to be rehabilitated, but a long tail scheme where claims are open for years is an expensive waste of everyone’s time and money,” Mr Schubert said.

Mr Schubert said that a more appropriate way for injured workers to receive the support they need, is have their compensation claims settled under the common law.

“Common law has been inaccessible under the Comcare scheme,” Mr Schubert said. “However it can be an effective remedy for individuals, providing closure to everyone concerned, rather than dragging on for years as it has under Comcare’s ‘long tail’ system,” said Mr Schubert

“The suggestion that the ACT government is creating a new scheme that may allow workers to settle claims at common law is a positive step.”

“Sometimes when a claimant simply isn’t going to go back to the same job, they are better off receiving a lump sum as compensation and moving on with life.”

“If your main asset is your ability to do physical or dangerous work and that is taken away from you, everyone agrees you should be supported to get back to work as soon as is reasonable,” Mr Schubert said.

“However, if your ability to do your job is taken away due to someone else’s negligence, then you should have the right to make a common law claim for lump sum compensation to help you get a new start in life.

“For some a career change is required. Others are so badly injured that they will never return to any work and need a lump sum to help them rebuild their life,” Mr Schubert said.

“What is clear is that Comcare didn’t facilitate this.”

ACT public servants under the Comcare scheme also had the rights for rehabilitation and assistance cut for accidents which occurred on the way to work.

“The ACT government now has an opportunity to ensure that in the areas in which Comcare was dragging its heels, its new scheme will run the distance,” Mr Schubert said.

Tags: Compensation ACT WorkCover Workers compensation