Injured workers will again be able to sue their employers for negligence, while those falsely claiming benefits will be targetted, under a long-awaited plan to overhaul South Australia’s WorkCover scheme.
Source: ABC News – WorkCover overhaul to target system rorters
The State Government has announced reforms it says will save businesses $180 million a year, including a legal distinction between ‘seriously injured’ and ‘less-seriously injured’ workers.
Those falling into the latter category will be removed from the scheme after two years, while compensation payments will increase for the more badly injured.
Attorney-General John Rau says a $1.4 billion unfunded liability would drop to about $100 million.
Mr Rau says the scheme is currently more like a pension with too many workers benefitting for too long, and has encouraged some “to entrench their illness behaviour.”
“People are rewarded by being sick, not being rewarded by getting better,” he said.
“For those people who are not the profoundly disabled people … at the end of a maximum of two year period, income maintenance ends.
“I’m not suggesting that all of the people who have been on WorkCover for more than two years have been rorting the system.
“The system makes people sick.”
The changes, which will have to go before Parliament after the election, would give injured workers expanded legal rights and allow them to sue.
“If an employer is negligent and as a result of that negligence there employee is injured, that employee would have a right to seek damages for that injury,” Mr Rau said.
The move follows several failed efforts to fix the troubled scheme and the Government says, if re-elected, it will consult on the details as it drafts the legislation.
Opposition welcomes changes, but says they are 12 years late
Lawyer Steven Dolphin says the reforms aim to balance the interests of workers and employers.
“Certainly in my experience there have been many injured workers who have sustained their injuries through negligence at work,” he said.
“As the Act currently stands, they are not able to recoup compensation for that negligence. Reintroducing the right to sue for negligence is to be welcomed.”
But Mr Dolphin says he wants to see more detail of the scheme before fully committing to support it.
“I understand there will be a seriously injury definition … the question then will be what is the relevant threshold?”
The State Opposition has previously announced its own WorkCover review.
Opposition frontbencher Iain Evans welcomed the reforms but said the Government should already have introduced them.
“After 12 years of mismanagement, they now say they can save $180 million of premiums for business, $180 million a year,” he said.
“Over a 12-year period, this scheme has slugged the South Australian business community $2.2 billion that it didn’t need to.
“Why weren’t these reforms brought in in one of the five, six or seven attempts they had previously to fix what is the worst workers compensation scheme in Australia?”
The scheme covers about 430,000 employees in 50,000 businesses.
Read Here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-24/government-reveals-workcover-cuts/5217812