WorkCover News

Overview of the Legislation Reforms 2012

Major workers compensation legislation changes have commenced 17 June 2012 with effective significant workers compensation weekly benefit changes payable to all employees from 1 October 2012. With the introduction of the new legislation there are significant changes to injured employees who are fully and partially incapacitated.
 
Existing workers compensation claims have a transitional period effective 1 January 2012 for 12 months.
 
1 October 2012 has the most significant changes and impact on employers: with the introduction of work capacity assessments, giving the employers and employees a better understanding of a workers capacity to work.
Weekly payments are linked to return to work, with more benefits during the first 13 weeks (when 80% of injured workers return to work) and thereafter if the employee works for at least 15 hrs per week.
 
If an injured worker is assessed as having some capacity to work, an employer must (as far as reasonably practicable) find suitable employment for them. Under the reforms, employers are subject to improvement notices and fines if they do not follow through with this commitment. A 3 month grace period will apply.
 
Prior to these legislation changes, the University had paid their injured employees 100% of their pre-injury rate of pay for the 1st 26 weeks following a work related injury. After 26 weeks, a statutory rate was applied, and for a single person gross per week the amount was $432.50.
 
Calculations of weekly benefits are now much more difficult and stringent. It can involve ordinary wages and salary, being an average weekly earnings over 12 months including overtime and shift allowances and possibly deducting amounts for non-pecuniary benefits, i.e. use of a motor vehicle, salary sacrificing depending upon where the injured is at on their weekly benefits entitlement.
 
After discussion with management it has been decided that the University will continue paying injured employees 100% of their salary for the first 13 weeks as this shows goodwill to our injured employees, does not disrupt payroll and 80% of all injured employees generally return to work within this period of the first 13 weeks.  
 
After this period of 13 weeks of incapacity and if the injured employee is not returning to work, then the University will be reducing the weekly benefits as per the entitlement; period below:
 
Under the legislation and effective from 1 October 2012 the attached table represents the weekly benefits now payable.

With the changes to legislation the WorkCover certificate has been changed to be called a certificate of capacity and is now 3 pages long. This now focuses on the capacity of the work that the injured employee can perform, rather than what work they cannot do.
 
No longer is it required that an injured employee be required to wait for approval by Workers Compensation for: initial x-rays, initial physiotherapy, initial specialist appointment, and public hospital.
 
Journey injuries to and from work have been abolished and only payable for injuries if there is a 'real and substantial connection to employment. A journey while you are already at work continues to be covered. E.g. attending a meeting at Clifton Campus and you have a motor vehicle accident driving there.
 
If the motor vehicle injury is on the way to or from work and is not the fault of the University employee, they can make a claim with the Motor Accidents Authority directly.
 
The permanent impairment threshold for claiming for whole person impairment has now been lifted to 10%. If an injured employee makes a claim for an amount lower then this will be disputed. Also only one claim can now be lodged for an injury in total. Effective date: 19 June 2012.
 
No compensation for heart attack or stroke & nervous shock unless nature of employment results in greater risk: Effective date 19 June 2012.
 
Legal costs cannot be claimed by injured employees anymore.
 
Work capacity assessments must be made for existing recipients of weekly benefits within 12 months after the commencement of the amendments. These assessments give the claims staff the power to have injured employees examined for determining their capacity to work, upgrades and advice on medical management.
 
If employees disagree with our decision on work capacity assessments, then they must write to us advising why and the matter may be referred to a WorkCover Review Officer.
 
Medical expenses can now be limited to 12 months from the date of a claim or when the claim was lodged.