Around the States

Australian Capital Territory

ACTBusinesses’ administration workloads should reduce significantly following changes to insurance notification regulations. Previously, ACT employers were required to notify their workers compensation insurer about employee numbers and wages paid every six months – even if there was no change from the amounts already declared.

Under new regulations that came into effect from 15 October 2015, employers only need to notify the insurer if the total wages paid during the period of insurance increased by more than $500,000.

In addition, workers compensation certificates of currency are now valid for up to 12 months.

It is expected that these changes will remove the need for more than 70,000 administrative transactions annually.

Under the new arrangements employers will:

  • Estimate the number of employees and wages to be paid during the period of the insurance policy at the time of purchase
  • Notify the workers compensation insurer in writing within 30 days if wages increase by more than $500,000
  • Advise the insurer of the employee numbers and wages actually paid 12 months after purchasing the policy

New South Wales

NSWEmployers and injured employees are expected to benefit from structural changes which were made to WorkCover NSW last year. The regulatory and insurance functions of the authority were split across three new organisations on 1 September 2015.

1. State Insurance Regulatory Authority – for workers compensation regulation:

  • Workers compensation
  • Motor accident compensation (CTP)
  • Home building compensation

2. SafeWork NSW – for work health and safety regulation:

  • Free advice and support
  • Licensing and registration
  • Testing services
  • Investigations
  • Enforcement

3. Insurance and Care – for workers compensation insurance:
Workers compensation insurance

  • Lifetime care
  • Dust diseases care
  • Self-insurance
  • Builders warranty

The changes were part of reforms designed to improve the workers compensation system for both employers and injured workers.
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Injured NSW workers received a further boost on 1 December when the State Government announced further changes to workers compensation regulations. The changes aim to boost benefits for injured workers to assist in their recovery and return to work.
These include:
1. Protection of weekly payments while a work capacity decision is under review
2. Increased entitlement periods to medical expenses for all workers
3. Minimum weekly amount as a safety net for workers with the highest needs
4. Medical expenses for life for workers with high needs
5. Hearing aids and prostheses for life for all workers
Further enhancements to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme in relation to legal costs and return to work arrangements are expected to come into effect this year, following public consultation.
Konekt is keeping abreast of these changes and can deliver information packages to our customers.

Queensland

QLDThe Injury Prevention and Return to Work Conference was held in Brisbane on October 22 as part of WorkSafe Month. Participants including employers, Return to Work/injury management, injury prevention providers, medical and allied health providers and Human Resources/ Work Health and Safety personnel listened to speakers Shane Webcke, Rachael Robertson, Professor Sidney Dekker, Graeme Cowan and Dr Adam Fraser.

The rights of Queenslanders injured at work received a boost in September with the passage of the The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2015 through the State Parliament. The new legislation delivered on the Government’s election promise to restore the rights of injured workers. It amended the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 to:

  • Remove the limitation on the entitlement to seek damages that required a worker to have a degree of permanent impairment greater than five per cent to access common law for all injuries sustained on or after the Queensland State election (January 31, 2015)
  • Establish the ability to provide additional compensation to particular workers impacted by the operation of the common law threshold, on or after October 15, 2013 and before January 31, 2015
  • Introduce provisions for firefighters diagnosed with one of 12 specified diseases that deem their injury to be work related
  • Remove the entitlement prospective of employers to obtain a copy of a prospective worker’s compensation claims history from the Workers Compensation Regulator
  • Clarify some procedural aspects of the claims process and reduce regulatory burden through several minor miscellaneous amendments.

More information on the provisions of the Act as passed can be found on the Queensland Parliament’s website.

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Australia’s first online workers compensation service not only enables employers to manage their claims but helps them reduce their insurance premiums by pinpointing injury trends.

WorkCover Queensland launched WorkCover Connect in October to replace its Employer Online Service.
The authority predicted that the new platform’s powerful data analytics would become an essential business tool for employers. More than 20,000 businesses had immediate access to the new system, allowing them to see industry-specific injury and premium trends, claims and injury tracking dashboards and up-to-date policy data and analytics.

“Our customers are constantly looking for ways to make smarter business decisions and WorkCover Connect now delivers unrivalled data analysis to their fingertips,” WorkCover Queensland’s General Manager – Business Solutions, Trevor Barrenger said. “Businesses can quickly and securely check the status of their claims and use WorkCover Connect to pinpoint costly injury trends and help put downward pressure on their premiums.”

For more information visit: https:// www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news/2015/ workcover-connect-makes-managing- workers-compensation-policies-a-breeze

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Workers compensation medical certificates are under review – and WorkSafe Queensland wants input from employers. The regulator said the aim of the review is to design a new Queensland capacity certificate that focuses on what can be done by an injured employee. WorkSafe said this will help increase awareness of the importance of work for health and recovery from injury.
To take part in the five minute survey, visit: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/ news/2015/queensland-capacity-certificate
ARPA Queensland will hold its Excellence in Workplace Rehabilitation Awards on Friday, February 26 at GOMA Rooftop Terrace, Stanley Place Cultural Precinct, South Bank.

Nominations are open for the following categories:

  • Best New Starter in Workplace Rehabilitation Award
  • Outstanding Return to Work Achievement Award
  • Outstanding Consultant Award
  • Exceptional Leadership Award
  • Innovation in Return to Work Award
  • President’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to The OR Industry in State Branch

South Australia

SAIn an exciting strategic development, Konekt has expanded its South Australian presence after the acquisition of two businesses: Applied Innovative Services and Innovative Training and Recruitment; and Insite Injury Management Group. Both businesses are based in South Australia but have interstate operations: AIS in the ACT and Northern Territory, Insite in NSW.

The acquisition of these businesses is part of Konekt’s strategy to strengthen its position in the South Australian market while adding to its capability in NSW and the ACT.

AIS and ITR operate from five locations in SA (where they are the market leader) and one in the ACT. They have long- standing relationships with a number of local customers and are a significant provider to ReturnToWorkSA. Equally, ITR has an enviable position within the South Australian market – including being one of the few companies approved to provide Return to Work Coordinator certificate training.

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The success of South Australia’s work injury scheme continues to grow according to recently released figures. ReturnToWorkSA Chairman Jane Yuile has released the 2014 -15 figures, which show the financial and return to work performance improvements have continued to improve.

The financial results reflect three key factors:

  • Continuing improvement in return to work outcomes and claims management performance ($426 million)
  • One-off impact of the Government’s legislative reforms ($992 million)
  • Strong investment return ($228 million).

The Board reduced the average premium rate by nearly 30 per cent to 1.95 per cent in March 2015 following the mid-year valuation. This is the lowest point ever in the scheme’s history and represents a saving to South Australian businesses of $180 million.

For more information visit: https://www. rtwsa.com/about-us/news-room/media- releases/returntoworksa-announces-a- strengthening-in-the-schemes-financial- position

Victoria

VICKonekt Victoria’s rehabilitation service delivery plan has kicked some early goals according to a recent review. We developed a targeted and strategic plan for the delivery of rehabilitation services within the Victorian scheme as part of the successful licence renewal process for WorkSafe Victoria during 2015. The plan is designed to ensure we continue to deliver the outcomes we have committed to, by focusing on our stakeholder partnerships and the quality of our service delivery. A review of the plan’s progress in November found an increase in our return to work outcomes across Original Employer Services and New Employer Services.

The prestigious 2015 WorkSafe Awards were the culmination of Health and Safety Week in October, with winners across
a wide range of industries including a Gippsland forestry company, a Narre Warren nursery, a Bundoora bus company employee and a school in Victoria’s southwest.

The winners were:

  • Best solution to a Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue: ANC Forestry Group (Morwell)
  • Health and Safety Invention of the Year: Whelans Group Investments (Bairnsdale)
    OHS Achievement: Timboom P-12 School (Timboon)
  • Commitment to Workplace Health and Wellbeing: Warners Nursery (Narre Warren)
  • Health and Safety Representative of the Year: Sean Mathews, Eastern Health (Ringwood)
  • Employer Excellence in Return to Work: City of Yarra (Richmond).

Northern Territory

NTA second amendment bill to the Northern Territory Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act will help ensure that all employers and workers are focused on return to work. It followed the first amendment bill, which came into effect on July 1, 2015. The second bill was passed on August 15 and came into effect on October 1.

The amendments followed a review of the scheme in 2014, which aimed to reduce the cost for businesses and maintain the long- term viability of the scheme, while providing reasonable financial support for injured workers. (There were 58 recommendations.)

  • Key changes in the second amendment bill were:
  • Payment of reasonable expenses for family counselling
  • Reasonable payment for medical and rehabilitation cost during deferment
  • Mental stress claims
  • Formal notice to be provided to the worker of any pending step-down or cancellation
  • Payment for legal advice at mediation
  • Negotiated settlements
  • Settlement of disputed claims
  • Exclusion of journey claims
  • Enforcement of compulsory insurance provisions by ability to stop work
  • Involvement of support persons at mediation
  • Improving return to work outcomes

Of particular note to workplace rehabilitation providers is the amendments made to help improve return to work outcomes.

The legislation now includes:

  • The employer must produce a return to work plan, developed and agreed between the employer and worker for any injury that involves incapacity of more than 28 days.
  • An employer will be unable to dismiss a worker for a period of six months following the date of injury unless during that period the worker ceases to be totally or partially incapacitated because of the injury.
  • This is not to apply if the employer proves the worker was dismissed on the grounds of serious and willful misconduct.

For more information visit: http://www.worksafe.nt.gov.au/LawsAndCompliance/WorkersCompensationLaws/Pages/Changes-to-Workers-Compensation-Legislation.aspx

Western Australia

WAMental health support in the workplace has received a boost, with beyondblue and WorkCover WA combining forces to promote the Heads Up program.

Heads Up aims to give individuals and businesses the tools to create more mentally healthy workplaces. It was developed by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and beyondblue and calls on business leaders to make a commitment to promote better mental health and take action in their workplaces. It also encourages everyone in the workplace to play their part to create a mentally healthy working environment, take care of their own mental health, and look out for their colleagues. Konekt WA is helping to increase awareness of the Heads Up resources with employers when assisting with Return to Work activities.

The Heads Up website provides resources, information and advice for individualsa nd organisations that are designed to offer simple, practical and, importantly, achievable guidance.

Employers can also create an action plan that’s tailored for their business. An interactive tool helps employers define and prioritise their goals, identify risk areas and take a step-by-step approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace.
The cost of mental illness in the workplace:

1. At any given time one in five Australian employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition
2. Approximately six million days are lost each year due to undiagnosed mental health conditions
3. A study by PWC shows an average return on investment of $2.30 for every $1 invested into improving mental health in the workplace.

The Heads Up website (www.headsup. org.au) has free tools and resources to:

1. Identify priority areas
2. Develop an action plan specific to their workplace
3. Help individuals manage their own mental health
4. Have conversations with individuals they are concerned about

The Mental Health Action Plan is a great place for employers to start, as this tool:

1. Reduces the stigma attached to mental health conditions and increases awareness among staff
2. Identifies supports available to staff who have a mental health condition
3. Reduces mental health risk factors within workplaces

Tasmania

TAS
A new plan aims reduce the stigma of mental illness and to provide support for patients at the right time and in the right place. Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced the 10-year strategy as part of the State Government’s election commitment to a long-term plan for mental health.

Rethink Mental Health Better Mental Health and Wellbeing – A Long-Term Plan for Mental Health in Tasmania 2015-25 aims to delivers on the Government’s commitment to developing an integrated mental health system that provides support in the right place, at the right time and with clear information about where and how to get help.

The plan was a result of the Rethink Mental Health Project, which included a six month consultation process with consumers, their families and carers,clinicians, service providers, GPs, private providers and other key stakeholders about mental health, mental health care and Tasmania’s mental health system.

Its vision is for Tasmania to be a community where all people have the best possible mental health and wellbeing.
The concept is to strengthen mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention, action to improve care and support for people with mental illness, their families and carers and set a path for integrating Tasmania’s mental health system. It includes short, medium and long term actions to achieve this vision.

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The importance of public safety during police pursuits has been enshrined in Tasmania Police policy. Deputy Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said the policy had taken 12 months to develop and would come into effect early this year.

He said the policy aimed to minimise injuries and deaths during police pursuits by ensuring greater accountability and clearly setting out the main risk factors.

“It’s a high risk activity. It’s a high risk for the public, it’s a high risk for offenders, who are often children, inexperienced drivers, and it’s a high risk for our own staff, our own police officers, so it’s a high risk for everyone involved,” Deputy Commissioner Tilyard said.

“The focus of the policy isn’t on actually catching people. The focus is on making the work environment as safe as we possibly can for our staff and the circumstances in which police can engage in pursuits as safe as they possibly can for the public.”

Deputy Commissioner Tilyard said Tasmania Police conducted 20 authorised pursuits in 2013-14. “In the last few years the number of authorised pursuits have been relatively low,” he said. “People probably have a misconception that there are pursuits happening all the time and that’s not the case. We just wanted to do a fairly comprehensive review of our policy and contemporise it.”

Key elements of the new policy:

  • A clear differentiation between a “pursuit” and other circumstances where police may be authorised to “follow” a vehicle.
  • Clearer articulation of “key risk factors” for police to consider prior to, and during, a pursuit.
  • A more comprehensive “reporting and investigation” regime based on categories of pursuit, to ensure greater accountability.

Source: Tasmania Police