Urgent need for review of NSW workers compensation scheme
6th Mar 2015
A report which revealed thousands of injured employees who lost workers compensation benefits following changes to the scheme has highlighted the need for an urgent review of these amendments, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
The study into the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, prepared by Macquarie University, showed that state government amendments to the scheme in 2012 resulted in significant reductions in the support provided to injured workers.
According to the report, the consequences of these changes have included 5000 people losing income entitlements and more than 20,000 workers suffering long-term injuries losing access to medical benefits.
Australian Lawyers Alliance National President Andrew Stone said the NSW workers compensation scheme was now substantially in surplus and called for the state government to restore basic benefits which were stripped from the scheme in 2012.
“It is time for employers and the government to demonstrate their support for the welfare of their employees and reinvest in the NSW workers compensation scheme,” Mr Stone said.
“Since 2012 there have been many instances where workers have been denied necessary medical treatment because the amendments stripped rights and funding from the scheme.”
“For example, only workers who are assessed at greater than 30 percent Whole Person Impairment receive lifetime coverage of their medical costs,” Mr Stone said.
“Furthermore, an injured worker’s need for treatment does not end when their weekly benefits finish. A 45-year-old person who suffers a hip injury at work can have a replacement covered by the scheme. However when the artificial hip wears out 20 years later and needs revision, after the worker has retired, the NSW scheme has long abandoned them.”
Mr Stone said he was also concerned that many injured workers are being deprived of necessary income support because of the changes to the scheme.
“Unless a worker is, in the opinion of the insurer, totally unfit for all forms of work, they receive no additional support after two and a half years unless they can find an employer prepared to hire them despite their workers compensation history and disability,” Mr Stone said.
“Because of this, in the current labour market there are many workers who will not find employment regardless of the effort they make to find suitable work.”
“The changes to the scheme also mean workers are unable to obtain legal assistance when insurers make decisions about their ongoing payments,” Mr Stone said.
“This greatly disadvantages the poorly-educated and under-resourced workers who form the bulk of compensation recipients. The situation is worse for those whom English is a second language.”
Mr Stone praised the Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet for rolling back a few of the worst changes to the workers compensation scheme in 2014 and urged him to again show compassion for people who are injured in the workplace.
“The evidence shows that the workers compensation scheme is now substantially, and sustainably, in surplus,” Mr Stone said.
“Employers have received a benefit from the draconian 2012 changes in the form of reduced premiums. The time has come to review the system and return to workers some of the benefit of this surplus by restoring the basic benefits they have lost.”