Reforms to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme
With the reforms to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, employers are now obliged to assist injured workers get back into the workplace and are required to ensure a suitable return to work program is in place.
According to the Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, reforms to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme will improve outcomes for workers and employers. “Injured workers will be offered more opportunities to get back on the job sooner with WorkCover helping employers identify suitable work,” Pearce states.
“Employers will have obligations to assist injured workers get back into the workplace and will be required to ensure a suitable return to work program is in place. Encouraging workers to return sooner will help improve their recovery and also benefits the worker’s family.
“After a three-month grace period, WorkCover inspectors will be able to issue improvement notices for any failure by employers to meet these obligations,” he notes.
Pearce states that, as part of the reforms, workers who make a claim will receive up to 95 percent of their average weekly earnings for the first 13 weeks of their claim based on their pre-injury earnings. “As well, a WorkCover independent review officer will be available to provide an independent review of decisions made about benefits and work capacity.
“These reforms are focused on encouraging and assisting injured workers to return to work as soon as they have capacity to do so. An early, safe return to work by injured workers has been shown to be good for the employee’s recovery, health and wellbeing.
“The positive flow-on effect of getting skilled workers back into the workplace sooner is a reduction in the costs of claims and premiums, which in turn means less strain on business, jobs and the workers compensation system,” Pearce concludes.
Benefits for new claims are now based more closely on an injured worker’s real earnings prior to injury – incorporating things like overtime and shift allowance, which removes the distinction between award and non-award workers. By filling out and submitting the new Pre-injury average weekly earnings form (catalogue no. WC03303) with your injured worker’s claim, you will help ensure they receive the correct entitlement to weekly payments.
If your injured worker was claiming prior to the reforms, a ‘transitional amount’ (which is significantly higher than the old statutory rate) will be used as their deemed pre-injury earnings.
Weekly payments are now linked to return to work, with more benefits during the first 13 weeks (when 80 per cent of injured workers return to work) and thereafter if the worker works for at least 15 hours a week.
2. Work capacity assessments
Your insurer now assesses your injured worker’s work capacity. This looks at their capacity to return to any type of suitable employment. A new WorkCover NSW certificate of capacity (catalogue no. WC01300) is replacing the old WorkCover medical certificate, to help doctors provide more advice on your injured worker’s capacity to work.
If your injured worker is assessed as having some capacity to work, you must (as far as is reasonably practicable) find suitable employment for them. Under the reforms, you are subject to improvement notices or fines if you do not follow through with this commitment (note that during a three month grace period from 1 October 2012 these employer improvement notices will only be applied in serious circumstances).
If you need help with identifying suitable work, please contact WorkCover. We are taking steps to work with employers to improve return to work outcomes and identify suitable duties for injured workers.
3. Claims and lump sum benefits
From 19 June 2012 there are new arrangements for journey claims, lump sum payments, and nervous shock, heart attack/stroke and disease injury claims.
4. Seriously injured workers
Seriously injured workers are exempt from time limits that apply to weekly payments, and medical and related expenses.
The reforms have been implemented in stages from June 2012. All claims made on or after 1 October 2012 are subject to the new legislation and benefits.
If you have an injured worker who was claiming prior to the reforms then they will be transitioned to the new legislation in 2013 (or if they are seriously injured they would have received improved benefits from 17 September 2012).