Parliamentary Committee says heal damaged workers compensation scheme
18th Sep 2014
Recommendations by a bipartisan NSW Parliamentary Committee to restore medical benefits to workers have been welcomed by the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
ALA National President Andrew Stone said the release of the recommendations of the NSW Standing Committee on Law and Justice in their review of WorkCover provided a starting point to reinstating health benefits which the government had previously stripped from injured workers.
“Inaccurate forecasting of potential future losses for the scheme led the NSW Government to gut benefits for injured workers in NSW. This report is one step on the path back to restoring fairness to the system.”
“This report provides a blueprint as to how to ensure that injured workers are appropriately and sustainably supported by the NSW workers compensation scheme in the future,” Mr Stone said.
Mr Stone particularly supported the Committee’s recommendation that medical benefits for hearing aids, prostheses and home and vehicle modifications should be restored for all injured workers.
“The Committee recommended that once these benefits have been restored, the NSW government should review the viability of restoring all lost medical benefits for injured workers,” Mr Stone said.
“Medical treatment for an injury sustained at work should be covered by WorkCover,” Mr Stone said.
Mr Stone said that a priority had to be restoring the benefits stripped from the scheme in 2012, cuts which the government has previously claimed were necessary to ensure its future viability.
Mr Stone said. “There is now a $1.3 billion surplus, which has been built up from the payments that should have been made to thousands of injured workers across NSW.”
Mr Stone also welcomed the Committee’s recognition that, following the 2012 changes, workers who are injured at work are no longer entitled to have legal representation properly funded.
“The Committee’s recommendation that the NSW government amend legislation to allow legal practitioners acting for injured workers to recover fair and reasonable fees for the work undertaken is just common sense” Mr Stone said.
“According to the Committee’s report itself, previous scheme changes have left injured workers vulnerable and without adequate representation in what is a highly complex area of law.”
“Workers in New South Wales are the only employees in Australia who cannot have appropriate access to a lawyer after they are injured at work. This needs to be addressed immediately,” Mr Stone said.
“Workers injured while carrying out their work responsibilities need to have the certainty that they have proper legal protection and the assistance to pursue their rights.”
“The Australian Lawyers Alliance calls on the NSW Government to announce, prior to the next election, that it will adopt the bipartisan recommendations from this thorough report” Mr Stone said.