Proposed workers compensation changes
The ever changing landscape of Workers Compensation continues to change (potentially) with the proposed Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 currently proceeding before Parliament. On Wednesday 19 September 2018, the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill was read before the Legislative Council. The bill proceeded and was passed without amendment. The Legislative Assembly is now considering the bill for assent.
Implications for injured workers
Naturally, any changes to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) will have implications for workers and injured workers throughout NSW. Arguably, the most significant changes, if the bill is passed without change is as follows:
- Restoring the jurisdiction of the Workers Compensation Commission to determine disputes about work capacity decisions.
- Empowering the Workers Compensation Commission to make decisions in respect of permanent impairment disputes without the need for referral to an Approved Medical Specialist.
- Altering the way in which pre-injury average weekly earnings are calculated with the potential for the regulations to specify the minimum amount of pre-injury earnings that apply in respect of a particular class of worker.
What will this mean for me?
Understandably, the question for many workers will be, what do these changes mean for me?
For ease, the above stated proposed changes mean the following:
- Work Capacity Decisions: Prior, the process in reviewing a work capacity decision for a worker was three pronged, proceeding before the insurer, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority and the Workers Compensation Independent Review Officer.
- Permanent Impairment Disputes: This is an interesting proposed amendment whereby the proposed regulations will outline the circumstances, in which a medical dispute concerning injured workers whole person impairment is either required or not required for referral to an Approved Medical Specialist. The amendments appear to suggest that an Arbitrator may be able to make findings in respect of whole person impairment. Watch this space.
- Earnings under the Act: One of the more interesting amendments is in circumstances in which the injured workers weekly earnings are less than the minimum amount prescribed by the regulations, the insurer is empowered to pay the worker at the minimum amount which would generally be paid to that worker. The application of this amendment, will hopefully resolve issues concerning the amount paid per week, in circumstances in which the injured worker has not been employed with an organisation for 52 weeks prior to injury.
Of course, these are only some of the proposed changes by this bill, with other changes to affect indexation rates of weekly compensation payment and prohibition of commutation to a lump sum for medical expenses in circumstances of a catastrophic injury.
In light of these proposed changes, it is clear that the objective of the proposed bill is to streamline the process of Workers Compensation and to breakdown the difficulties encountered by injured workers when disputes occur. The proposed amendments, on face value potentially increase accessibility for injured workers to engage lawyers in circumstances regarding disputes concerning capacity to earn, liability or earnings a worker is entitled to.
If these changes proceed through the Legislative Assembly and the Act is passed accordingly, the Workers Compensation Commission will be the central dispute resolution body for injured workers.
Importance of engaging a lawyer early on
In such circumstances if you are one of those unfortunate injured workers, who currently has a disputed matter, it is important that you engage a lawyer. These potential changes may result in your dispute being referred to the Workers Compensation Commission in the future, which can be a complex and daunting process.
Get in touch with us
At Turner Freeman Lawyers, we specialise in Worker’s Compensation claims. If you or someone you know has been injured and you are unsure of their entitlements, we encourage you to call 13 43 63 to speak with one of our Personal Injury Specialists today. Our NSW offices are in Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Newcastle, Penrith, Wollongong and Gloucester.