In the coming months, some 7000 – 8000 injured workers will be notified that their weekly benefits will cease at the end of 2017.
As a result of the amendments to the legislation in 2012, Section 39 of the Workers Compensation Act states that injured workers who have been on Workers’ Compensation as at 1 October 2012, and have been assessed as having 20% or less whole person impairment (WPI) will have their weekly payments stopped at the end of 2017.
This change was introduced as a cost saving mechanism which is somewhat at odds with the financial situation of the Workers' Compensation system which boasted $1.4 billion in surplus last financial year.
A WPI assessment of 20% or more represents significant debilitating injuries. However, many of those who have been assessed as less than 20% WPI (the vast majority) are still seriously injured to the extent that they either cannot return to work at all or certainly not back to their pre-injury employment.
It is expected that a large number of injured workers will be unable to return to work due to their serious injuries and will be stuck being unable to work and unable to receive weekly payments. These workers will need to rely on Centrelink payments from the Federal Government, if available. It is simply a shifting of benefits from the NSW Workers' Compensation scheme to the Federal Government.
The workers who can manage some degree of work duties may either find it hard to get a job due to the stigma associated with having a Workers’ Compensation claim or may only be able to obtain some part-time employment. They may need to rely on financial support from family and friends.
These injured workers will also have their right to claim medical expenses cut off after a further 2 years, despite many needing lifelong treatment. Again, this cost will simply shift to Medicare.
So instead of NSW employers who injure their workers being responsible for compensation through the premiums they pay, the Australian taxpayer will foot the bill. This does nothing to improve safety at work, in fact it does the opposite.
All in all, the Workers’ Compensation Scheme will profit heavily at the detriment of the injured workers, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
The NSW governments focus should instead be on taking care of injured workers, weeding out any fraudulent claims and stopping the gravy train for rehabilitation companies and other third party providers under the scheme who make millions in a very poor attempt to assist injured workers return to employment.
GARLING & CO 2017