Around the States

In this new regular feature of the Customer Konektions newsletter, Konekt will share the latest news from each of the jurisdictions across the country. We hope you find this a valuable inclusion.

Australian Capital Territory

Work Safe ACT announced that commencing in 2013/14, private sector workers’ compensation insurers and self-insurers will pay an annual levy to ensure the long term sustainability of workers’ compensation and work health and safety regulation. The ACT Government expends around $5 million each year regulating and administering the Territory’s workers’ compensation and work health and safety laws. Around ten percent of these costs are met by the people that the system is designed to serve, with the remainder funded from the ACT budget.

The ACT Government has determined to progressively transfer the cost of regulating the workers’ compensation and WHS legislation to scheme approved insurers and self-insurers by way of a levy. Doing so will gradually unwind this subsidy and bring the ACT in line with other jurisdictions.

Insurers will determine if they can absorb the funding into their existing cost structure or increase premium rates to partly or wholly offset this expense.

The amount of money collected under the new levy will be subject to a cap. This will mean that workers’ compensation premium rates should not increase by more than 0.015 percentage points year on year, even if insurers elect to let the full cost of the new levy flow through to the premium rate.

Work Safe ACT has also completed its 2012 Construction Safety Inquiry following the recent death of a worker on an Australian Capital Territory (ACT) construction site, which marks the fourth work related fatality in the ACT in seven months and the third within the ACT’s construction sector in that same period.

The Government has, therefore, committed to undertaking an inquiry into compliance with and application of work health and safety laws in the ACT construction sector.

The aim of this inquiry is to inform Government, employers, workers and the general community about the state of compliance with health and safety laws in the ACT’s construction sector and to identify further measures which could be taken to improve the level of compliance. The full paper, entitled ‘WSACT HB 0066 Getting Home Safely Report’ is available on www.worksafeact.gov.au, along with reviews which have been completed in response to this Inquiry

New South Wales

In June 2012, the government introduced changes to the Workers Compensation Scheme in NSW, with the reforms being implemented in stages from 2012 and into 2013. All claims made on or after 1 October 2012 are subject to the new legislation and benefits. If you have an injured worker who was claiming prior to 1 October 2012, then they will be transitioned to the new legislation in 2013, or if they are seriously injured they would have received improved benefits from September 2012. Insurers and self-insured employers are continuing to work with the NSW Government, WorkCover NSW and industry bodies to ensure the effective implementation of key aspects of the reform throughout the remainder of 2013.

Key aspects for the reforms include a change in the calculation of weekly benefits to be based more closely on the injured worker’s real earnings prior to injury, removing the distinction between the award and non-award workers. The reforms have also seen the introduction of work capacity assessment as part of the claims process. Insurers and self-insured employers are now responsible for assessing an injured workers work capacity and determining their ability to return to suitable employment. If an injured worker is assessed as having some capacity to work, the employer must (as far as is reasonable practicable) find suitable employment for them. Employers are subject to improvement notices or fines if they do not follow through with this requirement.

Effective from 30 June 2013, industries that have demonstrated improved safety and claims experience will receive an average of 7.5 per cent rate reduction, based on the performance of their industry.

This reduction will apply to 346 industries (approximately 66 per cent of the market). To see if your industry received a rate reduction, refer to the Premium rate reductions 2013/2014 fact sheet. No employer will receive a rate increase in 2013.

Queensland

On 23 May 2013, the Parliamentary Committee responsible for reviewing the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme tabled their report and recommendations in Parliament.

A media release issued on 7 June 2012 explained that the Finance and Administration Committee of Parliament would review performance of the compensation scheme in Queensland, how the scheme compares to other states, along with reviewing the 2010 Structural Review of Institutional and Working Arrangements in Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme to assess if previous recommendations and changes are performing as expected.

The Committee has made 32 recommendations in its report. The following overview provides details of the most significant recommendations in relation to psychological injuries.

Psychological Injuries

  • That psychological injuries be included under separate provisions within the legislation.
  • That the current exclusions for reasonable management action be removed and be replaced with specific exceptions for normal work place practices such as:
    • where action is taken to transfer, demote, discipline, redeploy, retrench or dismiss the worker provided that action is taken in a reasonable way;
    • where a decision is made not to award or provide promotion, reclassification or transfer of, or leave of absence or benefit in connection with, the worker’s employment provided the decision is made in a reasonable way;
    • action by the Authority or an insurer in connection with the worker’s application for compensation.
  • In order to mitigate the effect of the removal of the exclusion, that the definition of psychological injury be amended to be ‘the major significant contributing factor’ rather than the current ‘a major significant contributing factor’ for Category B type psychological injury claims.

The Queensland Department of Justice & Attorney General have provided information, case studies and a calculator on their website, to assist employers weigh up to cost of workplace injury and compensation claims. It further supports the model of prevention and early intervention to create a cost effective, sustainable and healthy workforce.

The calculator can be found at http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/statistics/injury-cost-calculator/index.htm

South Australia

The South Australian Workers Compensation Scheme has seen a number of changes in the past two years, including legislative change in July 2012 to allow for the new approach to premium calculation; the introduction of a second claims agent into the scheme to enable competition and employer agent choice; a new CEO, Mr Greg McCarthy commencing in December 2012; and most recently the introduction of new management and changes to the board.

In February 2013 the Chair of the WorkCover SA Board, Mr Phillip Bentley, announced a new executive management team, in a movement to lead the Corporation into an “era of more proactively regulating Scheme Performance as priority number one”. Whilst there are still some roles to be finalised, it was announced that Rob Cordiner has been appointed as General Manager Operations. Mr Cordiner has over 30 years’ experience in workers compensation, injury prevention and rehabilitation in both private and public sectors in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. Mr Cordiner had been an Executive Manager at Q-Comp, the workers compensation regulator in Queensland, since 2003. In addition, Michael Francis started on 25 February 2013 as General Manager Scheme Improvement and Regulation and comes from Q-Comp where he had been an Executive Manager for the past six years.

In March, the Corporation announced that the WorkCover SA average premium rate will remain at 2.75% for 2013-14.

Most recently WorkCover has announced that they have strengthened their approach to investigations to expose fraudulent activity within the South Australian Scheme. This was demonstrable with the successful prosecution of a worker who was employed whilst receiving income maintenance. The Adelaide Magistrates court has convicted a worker on nine accounts of workers compensation fraud, and the worker has been ordered to pay over $16,000 in fines, costs and restitutions.

The WorkCover Corporation of South Australia has also recently announced their intention to implement a new fee structure for the workplace rehabilitation providers with in the Scheme. This “outcome fee model” for pre-injury services is a part of WorkCover SA’s strategy to improve return to work outcomes through effective use of workplace rehabilitation. The new fee model will be published on 1 October 2013 and will have a transition period until January 2014.

Victoria

WorkSafe Victoria has their annual WorkSafe awards coming up recognising those that make a difference in workplace safety and return to work.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove said the awards honoured people and organisations that had made workplace improvements their number one priority. “There are many individuals and businesses across the state doing fantastic work to create healthier and safer workplaces,” she said. “But too often their efforts go unrewarded. “We want to honour their achievements and acknowledge the tremendous role they are playing in making Victoria the safest state in which to work.”

The WorkSafe Awards categories are:

Health and Safety

  • Best solution to a specific workplace health and safety issue
  • Excellence in health and safety management
  • Health and safety committee of the year
  • Health and safety representative of the year
  • Health and safety invention of the year
  • OHS management system of the year

Return to Work

  • Employer excellence in return to work
  • Occupational Rehabilitation Consultant achievement
  • Return to Work Coordinator excellence
  • Treating health practitioner achievement
  • Worker return to work achievement

Health and Wellbeing

  • Commitment to workplace health and wellbeing

Good luck to the entrants!

Northern Territory

In April 2013, the second meeting of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Advisory Council was held. Three interesting presentations were delivered, “the role of the nominal insurer” by Bill Roy (chair, nominal insurer), “underwriting procedures of insurers” by Colin Chilcott (member) and “claims management procedures” by Sharon Roxby (member). A review was discussed in relation to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (WRCA), and considerable discussion regarding the concerns raised by insurers and employers over the financial viability of the Northern Territory Scheme. Many members favoured an independent review of the Scheme.

On 4 June, the third meeting of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Advisory Council was held. Further discussion occurred regarding how broad the review of the Act should be and how it should be progressed. The Council’s preferred position is for a full independent review of the Scheme. It was noted that this will require Government approval before it could be progressed. The next meeting has been scheduled for the 23 July 2013, where it is intended that the proposed terms of reference will be finalised and preparation of the necessary submission for the Minister will be undertaken.

Western Australia

In April this year the WorkCover WA Board approved the recommended premium rates for workers compensation compulsory insurance policies for 2013-14. The recommended premium rates were published on the 9 April 2013 in a Special Government Gazette and came into effect on 30 June 2013. The recommended premium rates are independently calculated by the workers compensation scheme actuary, PwC Australia. A copy of the actuarial report and the full schedule of recommended premium rates is available via the Rates, Fees and Payments page on the WorkCover WA website. The Chairman of the WorkCover WA board, Mr Greg Joyce, announced that the average recommended premium rate would fall slightly to 1.668 per cent of total wages for 2013-14, down from 1.691 per cent of total wages for 2012-13. Mr Joyce reported that the decrease in 2013-14 is largely due to the continued wages growth in Western Australia. However, the positive impact of wages growth is offset by other factors, including increases in claim numbers and associated costs, and reductions in real rates of return for approved insurers. The decrease is not applied uniformly across all 480 premium rating classifications.

WorkCover WA announced the new prescribed amount schedule for 2013-14 in June. The prescribed amount is the maximum amount an injured worker can receive in terms of weekly payments for loss of earnings during the life of their claim. The prescribed amount is indexed annually based on changes in the Wage Price Index. The ‘Variations in Prescribed Amount and Other Workers’ Compensation Payments’ provides the full schedule of indexed entitlements to apply from the 1 July 2013, and is available for download from the Rates, Fees and Payments page on the WorkCover WA website.

Tasmania

Tasmanian WorkSafe is currently reviewing the Injury Management Coordinator role (IMC) role since its implementation. As it currently stands

  • An (IMC) is a person appointed by the insurer or employer. Their role is to coordinate and oversee the entire injury management process, including medical treatment, return to work and all aspects of Return to Work Plans and Injury Management Plans.
  • To be appointed when an IW suffers a significant injury (likely total or partial capacity for more than five working days, and/or likely to require ongoing medical treatment).
  • From a legislative perspective, an insurer or employer is required to appoint an IMC as soon as practicable.
  • It is a role that can be outsourced. In this instance, there is the expectation of a service level agreement being put in place to clearly define the role and expectations. The external provider should be considered to be an extended member of the organisation’s team.

Comcare

Many organisations operating under the Comcare scheme are preparing for audits of their Rehabilitation Management Systems by the Comcare Authority in order to demonstrate their ability to meet their legislative obligations and provide effective rehabilitation services to their employees. Specifically, organisations are being audited against 5 key elements, these being:

  1. Commitment and corporate governance
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Measurement and evaluation
  5. Review and improvement.

Audits are taking place over the 2013/2014 financial year and with expectations that this practice continue annually to support ongoing compliance and development of best practice principals within the scheme.

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