ACT Budget 2017: Government backflips on decision to dump Comcare for workers’ compention

Change of heart from the ACT Government

Author: Kimberley Le Lievre Original Story: Canberra times

The ACT Public Service will continue to use Comcare for workers’ compensation despite an attempt to dump the federal workplace insurer in 2015.

ACT industrial relations minister Rachel Stephen-Smith’s spokesman said the decision was in the “best interests of ACT Public Service employees”. He said the government would continue to pursue the possibility of becoming a self-insurer within that scheme.

In 2015, the government announced the ACT was taking its public sector workers out of the much-maligned federal Comcare scheme, which also covers the Australian Public Service, after years of steep premium increases, believing it could get a better deal by going it alone.

The government will use the 2017 budget to announce this is no longer the case. The spokesman said the government was still committed to improving workers’ compensation for public servants .

“ACT Public Service workers deserve a robust workers’ compensation scheme that will support them if they are injured or fall ill as a result of their work,” he said.

He said the government had consulted staff over its plan to step away from Comcare, but feedback “clearly showed there’s a better path forward in remaining with Comcare while the government expands its support with new initiatives for injured workers”.

The ACT government paid Comcare about $70 million in premiums for workers’ compensation in 2015-16.

“Remaining within the Comcare scheme means there will be no change to the type or amount of compensation available to ACT public sector workers who are injured or become ill because of their employment,” the spokesman said.

The government also committed to further helping injured employees return to work.

It described the initiative as a “comprehensive suite of measures” to complement an existing whole-of-government program.

The territory will spend $150,000 next financial year on the return-to-work plan.

In 2018-19, the funding will increase to $350,000 and, for the two years after, the government will commit $450,000 annually.

The initiative includes “pre-illness” workplace interventions to facilitate early resolution of issues, extra training and resources for managers to help workers remain at work and return to work after injury, and a pilot to “facilitate more streamlined redeployment” of staff unable to return to their pre-injury role.

“The ACT government wants to be an employer of choice in Canberra,” the spokesman said.

“These measures foster a workplace that’s safe and accessible for injured employees returning to work.”