Stealthy approach to stripping rights from injured workers is deplorable

2nd Jun 2022

A proposal to make a fundamental change to the SA Return to Work Act, which will affect thousands of workers and their entitlements, is being snuck into Parliament today without consultation, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“This stealthy approach by the Government is deplorable,” said Sarah Vinall, State President, ALA.  “If the government wishes to make changes to the Return to Work legislation, it is imperative that it is done in an open and transparent way. Proper consultation needs to take place with lawyers and groups that work with, and represent, workers.

“If there is a problem in the system, as this move would suggest, then transparent consultation needs to occur.  The basis of this decision by the Labor government needs to revealed and an immediate halt is needed to prevent rushing this amendment through parliament as early as today.”

The proposed amendment essentially overrules the Summerfield decision in the South Australian Supreme Court last year.

“The lack of transparency in this Bill raises concerns that a new Government is being pressured by Return to Work SA, a single stakeholder, to make broad ranging amendments to a scheme designed to support injured workers,” said Ms Vinall.  “As it stands there is no possible means by which the information being relied on to make these amendments, such as the actuarial figures, can be properly assessed or tested by the broader community.”

The Bill will change how workers are treated when they suffer injury to more than one body part and means that some workers will receive less compensation and others may miss out on receiving a lump sum payment all together. The change may mean that others workers are no longer considered to be a ‘seriously injured worker’ and will not receive ongoing financial and medical support.  

“This will lead to workers who are seriously injured not being able to work, having no income support beyond two years and no entitlement to medical treatment after a further year. This will have a devastating impact on a worker and their family,” said Ms Vinall.

“We are also very concerned that the amendments will be applied to any whole person impairment assessment performed on or after 1 January 2023, regardless of when the injury occurred.

 “We need to remember that we are talking about individuals who have been injured while working to support themselves and their families. These amendments, targeting those workers with multiple injuries, will have long term and serious consequences for families.

“Our priority must always be to ensure that anyone who is injured at work receives the support they need so they can look after themselves and their families.”

Tags: South Australia Workers' rights Workers compensation