What are income maintenance payments?

Income maintenance payments are provided to a worker when they are unable to return to their former employment or have suffered a financial loss by reason of a reduced capacity for work (e.g. reduced hours) or a reduced income which can result from a change in employment at a lower rate of remuneration in a position which better accommodates a worker’s limitations post-injury.

What are you entitled to?

Under the Worker’s Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 (SA) a worker was entitled to payment of their weekly income maintenance payments if they could not work or were not able to earn the same amount of income as before they sustained their work related injury. WorkCover SA could only cease income maintenance payments if the worker:

  1. Had returned work and was earning an equal or higher wage than before their work related injury;
  2. Was certified fit to return to work by a medical professional;
  3. Consented to cessation of their income maintenance; or
  4. Was not acting in a suitable manner by either breaching the terms of their Return to Work Plan provided by WorkCover or exhibiting serious or willful misconduct. Under the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) these provisions still apply, however, there is an additional limitation imposed by the legislation that income maintenance will only be provided for a maximum of 104 weeks (2 years) from the date of the worker’s injury taking place if they are not deemed to be “seriously injured”. The following table provides a comparison between the old income maintenance system and the new system implemented under the current legislation:
  5. In addition, the rate of income maintenance has been affected in the new legislation. Once a worker’s entitlement to income maintenance has been established, their average weekly earnings is calculated based on their income over the 12 month period immediately prior to their work related injury occurring and would be adjusted for inflation on an annual basis. This average weekly earnings figure is then subject to a reduction during different entitlement periods after the initial date of their work related injury.
  6. In the absence of any of these criteria being established a worker could continue to receive income maintenance for 2.5 years with the possibility of an extension depending on work capacity and until retirement age (being 65 years or the normal retirement age of their specific employment).
Worker’s Rehabilitation and Compensation Act  (Pre-1 July) Return to Work Act  (Post-1 July)
0-13 weeks at 100% of average weekly earnings 0-52 weeks at 100% of average weekly earnings
14-26 weeks at 90% of average weekly earnings 53-104 weeks at 80% of average weekly earnings
From 27 weeks at 80% of average weekly earnings No entitlement beyond 104 weeks unless “seriously injured” which provides an ongoing entitlement at 80% of average weekly earnings until retirement age.
Work Capacity review at 130 weeks and entitlement ceases at retirement age

If you suffer from an existing injury (i.e. an injury which was sustained prior to 1 July 2015) you will be entitled to 80% of your average weekly earnings for a period of 2 years after the Return to Work Act came into force (i.e. until 1 July 2017).

What if you are under the injury threshold?

If you have a serious injury but do not meet the threshold for a “seriously injured” worker you should contact us to determine whether you may be able to access benefits under your superannuation policy such as ongoing income protection payments or a lump sum Total and Permanent Disablement or Terminal Illness Benefit to assist you with managing your financial affairs whilst you recover from your injuries.

How can Turner Freeman Lawyers help?

If you have a claim for worker’s compensation and require specific advice regarding the nature of your entitlements under the Return to Work Act then you should contact Turner Freeman Lawyers South Australia on (08) 8213 1000 to obtain specialist legal advice specific to your work related injury.