The NSW government's plans to make sweeping changes to the NSW workers' compensation system will make NSW the meanest state in Australia, leaving injured workers and their loved ones worse off.
Workers' compensation law firm Maurice Blackburn which has decades of experience recovering compensation for victims of workplace injury, says workers should not be punished for the cost blow-outs caused by poor management and red tape at the NSW WorkCover Authority.
Majed Issa, senior workers' compensation lawyer said:
"Maurice Blackburn shares the deep concerns of others - unions, the NSW Law Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance about the impact these changes will have on 121,000* injured workers.
"We have seen many reforms of the Workcover system over the years, but this is shaping to be a serious assault on injured workers.
"If the changes go ahead as planned, it will make NSW the meanest state in Australia.
"It is obvious that a scheme which is currently is experiencing a deficit of $4.1 billion cannot survive without an overhaul. But this should not be done at the expense of injured workers.
"Workcover should get its own house in order, and the government needs to look at cost savings and inefficiencies at the Workcover Authority itself rather than cutting benefits and entitlements to workers.
Some of the current proposals include
- Stopping weekly payments and treatment expenses after two and a half years, whether or not you have recovered from your serious injuries.
- Journey claims -you are no longer protected under workers compensation if you are injured travelling to/from work.
- Raising injury thresholds to a mostly unattainable 30% whole person impairment for work injury damages claims.
"More can be done to get quality rehabilitation services for injured workers and to oblige employers to do more to help injured workers back to work. We see many injured workers who want to get back to work, but certain employers are un-cooperative or actively discriminate against injured workers. It would be more cost effective to subsidise employers who have workers on a 'return to work' program and make genuine attempt sin assisting workers to return to work.
"We would like to see Workcover doing much more to make sure NSW workplaces are the safest in the country, not taking the axe to workers benefits."
"Administration costs and legal costs are wasted as a result of workers being forced to refer their matters to the Workers Compensation Commission due to WorkCover's inability to force insurance company to adhere to the objectives of the Act. More needs to be done in terms of training WorkCover and insurance companies employees in administering the workers compensation scheme.
In short, there are a number of administrative and legal savings that could be made without hurting workers and kicking them while they are down. These proposed changes will only serve to add to the ever increasing financial pressures being placed on workers.
"The O'Farrell government's plan to increase the threshold serious injuries to 30% of whole person impairment, will leave many if not most workers with serious injuries with very limited and reduced weekly and treatment expenses payments. Most workers will no longer have the ability to pursue a work injury damages claim," said Mr Issa.