On 6 July 2022, the Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Amendment Bill 2022 (“the Bill”) was passed in Parliament.

The Bill introduced a number of changes to Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) (“the RTW Act”) on a range of issues including when a worker is entitled to supplementary payments of income support following surgery, the one assessment rule for workers who have suffered a permanent impairment from their work injury and when a worker is considered a seriously injured worker due to a work injury.

Supplementary Income Support

If you are not considered a seriously injured worker, you are not entitled to receive income support after 2 years from the date of your injury, whether or not you are able to return to work. One exception to this rule, is if you are required to undergo surgery as a consequence of your injury. The RTW Act allows workers to receive an additional period of income support, up to a maximum of 13 weeks, following surgery that is required to treat their work injury.

Since the decision in Redman v Return to Work SA [2019] SAET 127 you have only been entitled to receive supplementary income support payments if the required surgery occurred after your medical expense entitlement period had ceased.  The recent changes to the RTW Act mean you can access the supplementary income support payments at any time that you are required to have the approved surgery.

One Assessment Rule

If you suffer a permanent impairment as a consequence of your work injury, you are entitled to undergo a permanent impairment assessment. An assessor, that you nominate, will determine the whole person impairment (“WPI”) you have suffered due to your work injury. If your WPI is assessed at 5% or more, you are entitled to lump sum compensation.

Previously, the RTW Act strictly entitled you to only one assessment for any impairments arising from the same injury or cause. This meant that if you developed impairments after your permanent impairment assessment, for example if you were required to undergo additional surgery, you were not entitled to be compensated for any additional impairment that was caused.

The new changes to the RTW Act have loosened the one assessment rule. Now, you are entitled to be assessed again, if an additional impairment develops as a consequence of your work injury after your initial permanent impairment assessment.   While this is a step in the right direction, it is important to be aware that you cannot have any impairment assessed in a subsequent assessment combined with the WPI percentage assessed in your previous assessment.

Seriously Injured Workers

A number of changes have been introduced that relate to seriously injured workers, including what percentage of WPI you need to be assessed with to be considered a seriously injured worker.

If your permanent impairment is assessed prior to 1 January 2023 and you receive a WPI of 30% or more, you will be considered a seriously injured worker. However, if you are assessed after 1 January 2023, you will be required to be assessed as having a WPI of 35% or more as a consequence of your work injury, or the combination of your work injuries, to be considered a seriously injured worker. This change relates to you only if you are being assessed for physical injuries, the threshold for psychological injuries remains 30% WPI.

The RTW Act has also changed the way you can manage your entitlements if you are a seriously injured worker, you can now choose to redeem your entitlements and self-manage your injury, or continue to receive weekly payments on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the above, there have been a number of other changes to the RTW Act.  Return to Work SA have prepared some information which can be found here:  https://www.rtwsa.com/about-us/news-room/articles/significant-reforms-to-the-return-to-work-act-2014.

If you think any of the above may affect your entitlements, or you’re worried how any of the other changes may affect your claim, contact our office on 08 8213 1000 to speak to one of our workers compensation experts.