May 02

Government plan to make Comcare best practice model

AustraliaWe can on hope that this model will extend to the states -Federal government urged to consider a ”national framework” for the workers comp rehabilitation.

Government plan to make Comcare best practice model

Media Release
The Hon Bill Shorten MP
  • Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today announced plans to make Comcare best practice for work health and safety and rehabilitation

Visiting an Australia Post parcel sorting facility in Sunshine West today, the Minister indicated that the Government plans to initiate a national rehabilitation program with Comcare.

“Work related injury and illness has been estimated to cost the nation more than $60 billion every year,” said Minister Shorten.

“The Gillard Government is determined to address this rising cost by ensuring our national work health and safety and rehabilitation regulator, Comcare, becomes a best practice model.”

“The best outcome for all involved; employees, employers and the nation’s productive capacity, is getting injured and ill employees back to work sooner.”

“Comcare is in a unique position to lead this movement by helping us better understand the health benefits of work and early return to work of ill and injured employees.”

An expert medical advisor will be appointed to help define and promote the health benefits of work and the early return to work of ill and injured workers.

Comcare will work with the Institute of Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research to coordinate a national health benefits of work research program.

Comcare partnering with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Royal Australian College of GPs will:

  • Develop a ‘therapeutic guideline’ to best prescribe work as part of a rehabilitation program, with associated training and education for medical practitioners on the health benefits of work
  • Trial a medical case conferencing model to help facilitate early return to work. Case conferencing involves discussion between employee, employer and the treating medical practitioner(s) on return to work and rehabilitation steps.
  • Test new approaches to ‘fit for work’ medical certification by GPs in respect of ill or injured works covered by the Comcare scheme
  • Provide support for GPs to access expert advice through online resources and telephone advisory service to help see work as a part of the recovery and return to health of workers
  • Define a national vocational rehabilitation policy to ensure consistent standards across Australia for workplace based rehabilitation.

This work will be in addition to the amendments that will be made to improve rehabilitation and return to work provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act which covers the Comcare scheme.

Comcare is a national work health and safety regulator which covers over 500 000 employees from 230 different government and private organisations including Australia Post, National Australia Bank and Linfox Logistics.

May 02

Big priority for workplace safety in the short term is to get anti-bullying laws passed: Shorten

BILL SHORTEN WORKPLACE BULLYING PRESSER

No doubt tougher laws for workplace deaths is high on priority list as well.  In recent weeks there have been far too many work-related deaths reported.

Tougher laws for workplace deaths

There’s been a call for tougher laws for negligent employers to help reduce the incidence of workplace deaths.

The call follows the opening of a national memorial in Canberra to victims of workplace deaths attended by Griffith woman Kay Catanzariti.

Her 21 year old son Ben was killed on a worksite in Canberra last July when a concrete pouring boom fell on him.

“That’s all changed now. Our lives are broken now. Hearing a spoon drop on the tiles, that crack of a boom, a 39 foot boom collapsing on my son,” said Kay Catanzarati.

At the memorial loved ones will have a place to mourn the thousands of workers who died on the job.

Authorities say there are about 300 workplace deaths every year in Australia and 46 have died on the job so far this year.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called for the tougher laws, assistant secretary Michael Borowick says changes to the law could help.

“There’s a strong case for the introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation to be used in those very, in the worst case scenarios,” said Michael Borowick.

The Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says the big priority for workplace safety in the short term is to get anti-bullying laws passed.

May 02

Injury compensation win to open floodgates for victims

Unintended cosequences

Injury compensation win to open floodgates for victims

Thousands of injured workers who were denied compensation payments under a government cost-saving measure will be entitled to claim following a decision in the Court of Appeal.

The NSW government passed an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act last year that denied lump sum payments to workers who sustained injuries to less than 10 per cent of their bodies after June 19 last year.

Lawyer’s clients lining up to claim.

The changes extended to people who had already been injured and lodged claims before that date, and were part of a series of changes that were hoped to save the government $4 billion.

But union officials estimate up to $750 million will be wiped off those savings following the court’s decision to allow a construction worker the $8250 to which he would have been entitled under the old regime.

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Ronald Goudappel made a claim for compensation from employer ADCO Constructions after his foot and ankle were crushed when a bundle of steel purlins fell from a forklift in April 2010.

After the injury had stabilised he made a further claim for permanent injury, but not until two days after the legislative changes took effect, and his employer and WorkCover said this meant he was not entitled to any payment.

But the Court of Appeal deemed Mr Goudappel had been injured and had made his initial claim under the old system, and was therefore entitled to those provisions, opening the floodgates to more claims.

Leitch Hasson Dent principal Andrew Dent, whose firm represented Mr Goudappel, said he had clients lining up to claim for lump sum payments after the decision.

”Every personal injury lawyer in NSW had a vital interest in this case,” Mr Dent said.

The outcome redressed what a distinction between people whose injuries had already stabilised by the cut-off date and those whose had not, he said.

A Unions NSW spokesman aid there were 30,000 claimants for lump sum compensation at any one time, each entitled to up to $25,000. If that many people now claimed lump sums, the government would be liable for $750 million.

May 01

Fair Fight? We urge eligible injured workers to lodge lump sum claims to offset loss of weekly benefits

fair fightWe urge eligible injured workers and their solicitors to lodge lump sum claims to offset loss of weekly benefits

RONALD GOUDAPPEL V ADCO CONSTRUCTIONS

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in the Goudappel matter.

The Court has overturned the decision of Judge Keating, President of the Workers Compensation Commission that was made in October 2012.

The Court has held that the amendments affecting lump sum compensation that came into effect on 19 June 2012 do not apply to any worker who had made a lump sum claim before 19 June 2012 in respect of an injury that resulted in permanent impairment, whether or not the claim specifically sought compensation under Section 66 or 67 of the 1987 Act.

The effect of this decision is that:

  • the new threshold of 11% required to bring a whole of person injury claim under s66 of the Act does not apply to this class of worker
  • the worker can bring multiple claims under s66 as his or her impairment deteriorates
  • these workers are also entitled to bring a claim for pain and suffering under the old section S67 of the Act.

I will report further on the impact of this judgement on matters that are the subject of requests for assistance through the ILARS Scheme.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Please contact:
Kim Garling
WorkCover Independent Review Officer
13 9476
contact@wiro.nsw.gov.au
Issued 29 April 2013

May 01

WorkCover changes will ‘hurt workers and their families’

Have no doubt, WorkCover changes are hurting injured workers and their families.  Shame on the O’Farrell Government.

I am strippping injured workers of their rights - o'farrell

WorkCover changes will ‘hurt workers and their families’

Small business owners have welcomed a 7.5 per cent reduction in their WorkCover premiums, while unions decried the benefit as coming at the expense of injured workers.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said 167,000 employers would benefit from an average reduction to WorkCover premiums of 7.5 per cent, saving them more than $200 million a year.

He said WorkCover was a financial “basket case” and needed to be fixed.

"These changes were always about rewarding the business community": Mark Lennon.“These changes were always about rewarding the business community”: Mark Lennon. Photo: Michel O’Sullivan

“As a result of reforms to WorkCover announced in June last year, employers have avoided a premium hike of 28 per cent, which would have cost more than 12,000 jobs,” he said.

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“Our changes have made the system fairer and have provided more generous payments to severely injured workers, as well as giving incentives to businesses to improve workplace safety.”

However, Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the benefits for businesses had come at a big cost to injured workers.

“These changes were always about rewarding the business community with lower workers compensation premiums with no regard for the impact on tens of thousands of working families across NSW,” he said.

“Every day unions are being contacted by injured workers who have had their payments cut off or whose rights to even make a claim have been removed because of these changes.

“The impact on these families is devastating, with many forced to turn to friends, family and charities just to support themselves, while the financial and emotional stress is leading in some cases to family breakdown.”

He said the changes introduced in June last year had slashed workers compensation rights for all workers in NSW by removing cover for journey claims to and from work. They had also stopped weekly payments for most injured workers after two and a half years and capped payments for medical expenses.

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said: “The Premier has chosen to take the low road by attacking injured workers and their families – and simply removed the compensation from this State’s workers compensation scheme.

“I have injured workers contacting my office on a daily basis telling me how they and their families are suffering and struggling to make ends meet because of this Government’s changes to workers compensation.”

GIO and the NSW Business Chamber welcomed the government reforms.

Jason Allison, who overseas workers compensation at GIO said reduction of the administrative burden on small business owners had been successful.

“Employers who currently pay $10,000 or less in workers compensation premium are exempt from having their claims experience affect their premium,” he said.

“Under these reforms this threshold will increase from $10,000 to $30,000, meaning 95% of NSW employers will no longer have to be concerned about the impact of previous claims costs.”

NSW Business Chamber chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright said the government had prevented a potential 28 per cent hike in premiums and the loss of up to 12,600 jobs.

“Premier O’Farrell has put jobs first with his decision to reform the state’s workers compensation scheme rather than take the easy option of hiking premiums to cover the scheme’s deficit,” Mr Cartwright said.

Meanwhile, the opposition spokemsna for small business, Adam Searle, said the O’Farrell government had ‘‘sold out’’ business interests in its decision to give the small business commissioner greater powers to act on complaints.

“Under the Coalition’s Bill, the Commissioner will only be able to investigate and report on complaints, not solve them through action,” he said.

May 01

INJURED WORKERS HIT HARD BY O’FARRELL’S SLASHING OF WORKERS COMPENSATION: NSW OPPOSITION

ipad-art-wide-ofarrell-420x0

MEDIA RELEASE
John Robertson MP
NSW Opposition Leader
Michael Daley MP
Shadow Treasurer
Shadow Minister for Finance and Services

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

 INJURED WORKERS HIT HARD BY O’FARRELL’S SLASHING OF WORKERS COMPENSATION

Injured workers and their families continue to be hurt by the O’Farrell Government’s savage cuts to workers compensation, which have slashed medical benefits and entitlements following workplace accidents.

The NSW Labor Opposition said reductions in premiums celebrated today by the O’Farrell Government have come at the cost of injured workers and their families.

“Barry O’Farrell has today confirmed that NSW’s workers compensation scheme is no longer about helping injured workers – but is now simply about crude cost cutting,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said.

“The Premier has chosen to take the low road by attacking injured workers and their families – and simply removed the compensation from this State’s workers compensation scheme.

“I have injured workers contacting my office on a daily basis telling me how they and their families are suffering and struggling to make ends meet because of this Government’s changes to workers compensation.”

Under the O’Farrell Government’s changes last year, workers will no longer be looked after if they are injured on the way to or from work.

From the day you are injured, your salary will be cut, with a further reduction after 13 weeks of the injury taking place. Workers who return to work will also lose their medical benefits after 12 months even if they require ongoing treatment or their injury comes back.

Shadow Minister for Finance and Services Michael Daley said that many workers receiving workers compensation benefits have had their payments slashed due to the retrospective nature of the laws.

“Accidents can happen to anyone in the workplace – these changes ensure that anyone who injures themselves in the workplace will be left struggling to pay their bills,” Mr Daley said.

“These cuts are a disgraceful attack on those who can least afford it – Barry O’Farrell should be ashamed about basking in today’s announcement which just confirms injured workers and their families have been hit hard.”

MEDIA CONTACT: JOSH MCINTOSH 0400014185

May 01

Workers who have been injured at work through no fault of their own thrown on the scrap heap: Robertson

Compensation for injured workers

Cases keep mounting up – when can we expect challenges to work capacity assessments?

NSW workers ‘paying for WorkCover savings’

BOSSES will pay less for workers compensation because of savings the NSW government made by short-changing injured workers, says NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has announced employers will pay 7.5 per cent less for their premiums, which fund the government’s WorkCover scheme.

Unions have accused Mr O’Farrell of rewarding businesses less than a year after the state government capped benefits and medical expenses, and axed claims made on the way to and from work, to rein in a $4 billion blowout.

Mr Robertson says the WorkCover reforms mean injured workers don’t get the support they need to get them back into the workplace and off benefits.

“This is a government that all along was about taking benefits from injured workers,” Mr Robertson told reporters on Wednesday.

He accused the government of “effectively bragging” about the cuts and said the “savings have been made on the back of injured workers”.

“As a result we are going to see more workers who have been injured at work through no fault of their own thrown on the scrap heap.”

Earlier, Mr O’Farrell said the cuts to premiums were the result of good management and would not come at the expense of workers.

He said the intention of the reforms was not to lower premiums but to “get the scheme back under financial control”.

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said the reductions struck the right balance for employers and workers.

“Let’s be clear; this (scheme) was $4 billion in deficit. If that goes broke, you can’t look after any injured workers,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Greg Pearce said many small businesses would have their premiums halved as result of the changes.

Stephen Cartwright from the NSW Business Chamber said the cut to premiums would be an incentive for firms to hire staff.

“That’s exactly what we need in NSW, more incentive to create new jobs,” he said

May 01

Workers compensation premium cuts for business community coming at the expense of injured workers

Nothing to brag about! Disgraceful

 • Press Release
Premier Barry O’Farrell’s real motivations for slashing the state’s workers compensation system has been exposed by today’s announcement of a premium reduction for employers by an average of 7.5 per cent, according to Unions NSW.
“The O’Farrell Government’s spin was that the scheme was unsustainable and premiums would soar without changes, but less than 12 months after they took a knife to the rights of injured workers their real agenda has been exposed,” Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said.
“These changes were always about rewarding the business community with lower workers compensation premiums with no regard for the impact on tens of thousands of working families across NSW.“Every day unions are being contacted by injured workers who have had their payments cut off or whose rights to even make a claim have been removed because of these changes.
“The impact on these families is devastating, with many forced to turn to friends, family and charities just to support themselves, while the financial and emotional stress is leading in some cases to family breakdown.”
The changes, in June last year, slashed workers compensation rights for all workers in NSW by:

  • removing coverage for travel to and from work;
  • stopping weekly payments for most injured workers after two and a half years;
  • capping medical payments for injured workers; and
  • preventing the partners of those killed at work from claiming for nervous shock.

“Premier O’Farrell and Finance Minister Greg Pearce have exposed their true colours with these changes,” Mr Lennon said.

“They are happy to crow about a reduction to workers compensation premiums, but they refuse to admit that their gift to the business community has been paid for by the suffering of thousands of NSW people who have been injured while simply going about their daily work.”

May 01

Compensation change is a massive ‘win for workers’

I am strippping injured workers of their rights - o'farrellThis, we hope, will be the first in many challenges that highlight just how draconian the new W/C laws really are.  Big win for injured workers.  This change highlights the absurdity of the changes.  According to the new laws after 19 June, 2012, pain and suffering don’t  exist, nor do injuries deteriorate over time?

Compensation change is a ‘win for workers

A solicitor says the decision by NSW’s highest court to strike down key elements of the O’Farrell Government’s recent workers compensation amendments is a “massive win” for injured workers.

The Government’s Workers Compensation Bill was rushed through NSW parliament last June to the dismay of workers, community groups, some politicians and unions.

The Bill, opposed by the Opposition and the Greens, sought to cap weekly workers compensation payments to two- and-a-half years, cut medical expenses after 12 months from the date of claim and abolish lump sum compensation entitlements for all injuries where the worker was assessed as having less than 11 per cent “whole person” impairment.

However, the most controversial aspect of the Bill was the fact the changes introduced were retrospective.

But in the NSW Court of Appeal on Monday those aspects of the law were deemed to be “beyond power and invalid”.

The decision handed down related to an injury sustained by a worker in 2010 when a steel purlin fell from a forklift and crushed his foot.

Initially denied compensation for his injuries in the Workers Compensation Commission, because he did not make a claim for lump sum compensation on or before June 19, 2012 and he was assessed as having less than 11 per cent whole person impairment, the worker appealed.

The Court overturned the decision and found that the workers compensation amendments of 2012 preventing and restricting access to compensation lump sums do not apply to workers who had made their claim prior to the Bill being passed – this was in relation to injuries that resulted in permanent impairment, regardless of whether or not the worker specifically sought compensation.

“The decision is a massive win for injured workers who the NSW Government sought to deny compensation,” Kenny Spring Solicitors’ Patrick Coetsee said.

“The decision is not unexpected, given the haste with which the new laws were introduced, and a lack of understanding of their effects by most in the NSW Government.

“It means that provided your claim form was in before June 12, 2012 you’re covered under the old laws.

“The decision essentially strikes down the Government’s attempt to make the changes retrospective, and apply to injuries and claims made prior to the law changing.

“It will open up compensation rights for workers who do not exceed the new and draconian 11 per cent whole person impairment threshold, and allows claims for pain and suffering where the threshold is exceeded.”

May 01

Federal government urged to consider a ”national framework” for the workers comp rehabilitation

AustraliaWe could not agree more with the recent Comcare report which calls for the federal government to consider a ”national framework” for the rehabilitation of all workers injured on the job to replace the fragmented state and territory-based approaches in place.

Often unnecessary and often inappropriate pressures are being placed on many injured workers, in state based systems, which do not assist their rehabilitation needs. In too many cases, injured workers report that employers do everything they can to stop them from returning to work and that insurers attempt to bully them and their treating doctors into treatment schedules that ignore medically accepted treatment standards.

Furthermore, insurers routinely deny and delay treatments and then fail to monitor and manage ongoing treatments when they are finally approved. Poor case management by insurers who are poorly equipped to understand or appropriately manage many of the cases they receive are also a major contributing factor to cost blowouts in workers’ compensation systems.

Call to toughen up PS insurer

Commonwealth workplace insurer Comcare needs tougher medical supervision of the 10,000 bureaucrats now claiming workers’ compensation, according to a new report on the scheme.

The report has also urged the federal government to consider a ”national framework” for the rehabilitation of all workers injured on the job to replace the fragmented state and territory-based approaches in place.

The federal government has published the study by former Defence Department boss Allan Hawke, which forms part of a broader review of the $1.2 billion scheme that insures 218,000 public servants and another 164,000 private-sector workers.

The review has made 147 recommendations to rewrite Comcare’s legislative framework in an effort to modernise the 25-year-old scheme, and rein in the costs of the taxpayer-funded insurer, which lost more than $500 million in 2011-12.

With the lifetime cost of more than 10,000 ”open” claims in the federal and ACT public service estimated at more than $2.6 billion, Dr Hawke identified ”cost leakage” through payments for inappropriate medical care.

He wrote that the insurer’s clinical panel, established in 2011 with the power to intervene in the treatment of workers claiming benefits, had produced some results and had made changes in 87 per cent of the 476 cases it examined last year.

”Despite these successes, progress has been slow,” Dr Hawke wrote. ”Given Comcare has over 10,000 open premium claims, there is a need for quicker review.

”There is also a need to introduce more disciplines in the clinical panel to review other types of treatment.”

The broader review, ordered last year by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, cited a case of taxpayers paying nearly $30,000 for massage therapy that had ”no curative effect” and another of a Brisbane bureaucrat flown to a Buddhist meditation retreat in Alice Springs to treat his anxiety disorder.

Comcare has also moved to tighten its medications policy to stop unscrupulous pharmacists profiteering or taxpayers’ funds being used to support drug habits. Dr Hawke has also called for the government to tackle the ”complex task” of a national uniform approach to rehabilitation with an Australia-wide framework, which he believes would provide more options for the return to work of injured employees. Among Mr Hawke’s other recommendations to improve the long-term financial health of Comcare, the minister was urged to lift a ban, imposed by the federal government in 2007, on any more private-sector entrants into the scheme.

Mr Shorten said the moratorium, imposed to appease states and territories that feared a private sector exodus from their own workers compensation schemes, would stay in place until a deal was struck on national health and safety laws still being resisted by two states.

”Victoria and Western Australia have, to date, refused to bring their systems into line with the rest of the country,” Mr Shorten said.

”In the absence of co-operation from all states, the government must consider the continuation of the moratorium placed on national employers joining the Comcare scheme.”

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