Barry’s reform adds insult to the injured

barry-reform-adds-insult-to-injury
The United Service Union says Injured  are ‘starting to pay’. This was recently highlighted in a documentary on ABC entitled “Workcover NSW insurance reforms upset victims”. We couldn’t agree more, as we too hear everyday from NSW injured workers, and how they have been extremely adversely affected by the Barry’s reforms.

Injured workers (and their families) are ‘starting to pay’ about nine months after the NSW Parliament passed workers compensation reforms to arrest a deficit in the state’s WorkCover scheme of more than $4 billion, according to the United Services Union (USU).

The union states an article  appearing in The Sunday Telegraph on 17 March 2013 is proof their fears about the reforms have ‘come true’, and we agree!

The article states that the reforms have ‘started to hit up to 40,000 injured workers across the state, with long-term benefits being slashed and insurers demanding a return to work.

In addition, Opposition WorkCover spokesman Michael Daley told the paper that ‘Barry O’Farrell has decided to end cover for injured workers’ and that the changes would see 99% of those on WorkCover lose a substantial part of their cover.

Barry’s reform adds insult to the injured

To further ADD INSULT TO INJURY,  the Sensible’ WorkCover reforms have, yes! been praised by NSW Business Chamber, who released a mid-term report card for the Barry O’Farrell Government, in which it says ‘sensible’ WorkCover reforms introduced by the ruling party last year have contributed to a stronger economy – faaaark!

The Chamber has awarded the State Government 8 out of 10 at the midpoint of its term in office for ‘returning stability and confidence to NSW’s governing institutions and implementing its policy agenda with a methodical, considered and consultative approach’. Ohhh, what a lie, especially given the unpopularity of the Farrell reforms and government!

The Chamber praised the government for preventing a $750 million increase in workers compensation premiums on employers and protecting 12,600 jobs by delivering a new WorkCover scheme that is ‘fair, competitive and sustainable over the longer term’. Ooops, we really do want to vomit.

A lawyer (Vrege Kololossian from GMP) claims workers are ‘left out of pocket’ under the new workers compensation system in NSW.

The new workers compensation system in NSW has ‘hit employees hard’ and is a ‘real tragedy’ for people who can ‘least… afford to be out of pocket’, according to a law firms specialising in workers’ compensation.

Vrege Kolokossian, an accredited personal injury specialist at Gerard Malouf and Partners (GMP) law firm, said reforms to the WorkCover scheme — known as the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Act 2012 — were passed in parliament in June ‘despite a high level of public discontent surrounding the amendments.
The updated laws include changes to legislation for injuries sustained on the way to or from work and increased 9read difficult to attain) thresholds for weekly incapacity payments and lump sum payments.
‘The [new laws] go well beyond allowing for a fair system of compensation for the worker, who is usually the one that least can afford to be out of pocket,’ he said.
 In an interview in August, head solicitor Gerard Malouf called the new laws a ‘real tragedy’.
‘I think it’s a tragedy for the whole of personal injury clients that they have now been denied any real form of compensation,’ he said.

Injured workers motivation grossly misunderstood: Why workers compensation policies are wrong and dangerous

By Injured Wokers Support Network

According to a number of researchers, including the Australian Productivity Commission, for years the real costs of workers compensation in most states have resulted from the mismanagement of schemes by the government.  Furthermore, research shows that workers compensation schemes across Australia are based on incorrect assumptions about what motivates injured workers.

These assumptions are dangerous and have led to the further erosion of benefits to injured workers.  The logic behind these policies? They provide a disincentive that prevents cheating the system and discourages malingering.  We would argue that this is cynical and dismal view taken by politicians who are poorly schooled in human behaviour and motivation.  This has led to the development of systems that use punishment and coercion in order to motivate injured workers.

Research carried out on behalf of the Industrial Health and Research Foundation, in 2011, highlighted a number of false assumptions governing current systems:

Fraudulent claims are overstated

Despite research claims that false claims increase when larger payouts are available, these represent a tiny fraction of overall claims that are legitimate.   Emphasis has been placed on minor increases without considering the fact that many legitimate injuries never reach the claims stage.  The failure to detect false claims is systems issue.  The current assumption is to treat all claims as though they are fraudulent rather than improving the system to detect the small amount of claims that fall into this category

The under-reporting of legitimate claims

Most reported injuries never make it to the claim stage  – in fact, it has been found that many people persevere with injuries to the point of being forced to take time off work for treatment and recovery.  If anything, legitimate claims for workers compensation are under reported.  The current assumption seems to be that workers will make claims for false and or frivolous reasons.

There is no incentive to claim, for most workers

Most workers return to work as soon as their injuries have healed regardless of the issue of economic incentive (previous and more equitable entitlement available) or disincentive (reduced entitlements that reflect disadvantages of the current system).  This suggests that the vast majority of workers are unlikely to make false claims, despite the assumption that false claim costs would skyrocket if larger claims are made available.

Poor claims and injury management process is a major issue

Other factors associated with poor return to work management need to be considered as a major reason for prolonging claims resolution.  Failure by employers, insurers, providers and workplace health and safety all play major roles in successfully managing claim, however, injured workers and their families are routinely penalised by the current system.

Complacency about safety is a myth

There is no evidence to support claims that workers become complacent about  safety when higher rates of compensation are available.  Previous concerns have been based on false assumptions based on questionable research data. Most people simply do not ignore safety in order to qualify for workers compensation.

Adding insult to injury

The stepping down of workers compensation in recent years has exacerbated problems typically associated with injury management and recovery (financial distress, family problems etc).  This has also given rise to secondary injuries (i.e. depression and anxiety) on top of many injuries that were initially physical in nature.   This suggests the likelihood that many short to medium term injuries turning into long-term problems is substantially increased.

The moral hazard, taxpayers pay for negligence

Poor injury management ends up being paid for by taxpayers as more and more injured workers fail to make successful transitions back into the workforce.  Employers routinely view many people who have been unfortunate enough to be on workers compensation as liabilities best avoided, which limits the potential injured workers (especially with long term injuries and psychological injuries) from ever returning to pre-injury employment status and earning capacity.  Many long-term injured workers end up being forced onto unemployment benefits at taxpayer’s expense.  Employers have limited liability and therefore little incentive to take the health, safety and wellbeing on injured workers seriously.

Interestingly, the research focused primarily on physical injuries – however, the growing concern is the increase in psychological injuries, both primary and secondary, resulting from the poor management of claims (not only by insurers, but employers who take a negative view of injured workers).   Reductions in wages, financial pressures, and poor return to work management are all implicated.   The real concern is that given physical injury claims should be relatively straightforward to manage – which it seems is anything but, because the system is more adversarial towards injured workers, in general. The rapid rise in psychological injuries in many workplaces only places greater pressure on the entire system, because the management of psychological injuries are significantly more complex and time consuming to manage than physical injuries.

The rising costs of psychological injuries

Claims data for psychological injury for Australian government organisations over recent years indicates a rise in these types of claims.  Work pressure accounts for around 50 per cent of psychological injury claims. The next most significant category for Australian government organisations is harassment/bullying combined’ – which accounts for around a quarter of psychological injury claims. Of declining importance in recent years is ‘exposure to workplace or occupational violence’ which accounts for only about 10 per cent of psychological injury claims. ‘Exposure to a traumatic event’ (which includes witnessing a fatal or other accident) accounts for less than 5 per cent of psychological injury claims.

According to Comcare, Australia’s federal work health and safety regulator, claims associated with mental stress have risen 54% since 2006-2007.  Work related mental stress is of concern in the Comcare scheme, especially in the APS. The number and proportion of worker’s compensation claims as well as the cost of psychological injury claims, has increased over recent years.

Over the four-year period to 30 June 2010:

  •  around 9 per cent of accepted Australian Government premium payer claims were attributed to mental stress; and
  • around 35 per cent of total claim costs related to these claims.

However, the impact of mental stress is even greater when secondary conditions are taken into consideration. There are a number of cases where the initial claim was not caused by mental stress, but the injured worker developed a mental disease as a secondary medical condition. Taking these cases into consideration, over the same period:

  • around 11 per cent of all accepted claims within Australian Government premium payers involved mental disease as either a primary or secondary condition
  • around 43 per cent of the total cost of accepted claims related to these claims.

There also tends to be a limited view of the work capacity of people facing these problems. According to Comcare employers struggle to find suitable duties for people with a psychological injury claim. Those with a psychological injury do not return to work as quickly as those with claims for non-psychological injures. For example, during 2010–11, 49% of the mental stress claims from employees of Australian Government premium payers that involved 4 weeks lost time from work progressed to 26 weeks lost time. This compares to just 23% of all other claims that progressed from 4 to 26 weeks lost time during the same period.

References

Comcare. (2011). Comcare submission to the public hearing: House standing committee on education and employment inquiry into mental health and workplace participation. Australian Government.

Productivity Commission. (2004). National worker’s compensation and occupational health and safety frameworks. Final report.  Australian Government.

Purse, K. (2011).  Provisions of fair and competitive worker’s compensation legislation, University of South Australia.  Research funded by the Industrial Health and Research Foundation

9 Responses to “Barry’s reform adds insult to the injured”

  1. @Xchangingvictim: There is an international day of mourning

    The International Day of Mourning – 28 April – is recognised worldwide as a day to remember workers who have died from workplace incidents or disease.

    The International Labor Organisation marks the occasion as World Day for Safety and Health at Work to focus attention on promoting and creating a culture of safety at work and  to help reduce the number of work-related deaths .

     

    Each year events take place around the world with an over-arching theme of a safety and health culture.

    We’re not sure if there is anything organised in Victoria, but we’d love to hear if there is.

    It isalso celebrated in SA – more info can be found on the VOID website

     

    Unions in NSW have organised the following services in Sydney and the Central Coast and have invited the families and friends who have lost their love ones to be remembered and honoured.

     

    The Services will take place;Sydney, Darling Harbour, Sunday 28th April 2013, 11:45am for 12:00 noon service. Reflection Park, Little Pier Street, Darling Harbour  (beside Sydney Entertainment Centre)- Central Coast – Wall of Remembrance, Monday 29th April 2013 At 11:45 am for 12 noon service, Ourimbah Wall of Remembrance, 8 Chittaway Road, Ourimbah.

    workcovervictim3 April 25, 2013 at 10:10 am
  2. Today we celebrate Anzac Day and we commemorate lost lives and survivors who fought for the Australian flag.

    Now I ask myself why there isn’t any commemoration for injured and illegally “sacked” workers, why there isn’t any for those who lost their lives while on duty or for those who committed suicide? Why there isn’t any commemoration or tribute to those people who fight everyday to feed their families and now they have to sell their house or fight (again the insurers) to have super, salary protection or Centrelink support???

    Xchangingvictim April 25, 2013 at 9:12 am
  3. Summing up workers compensation systems in every state use punishment and coercion in order to motivate injured workers and if you heard Greg Pearce the other night on the ABC, his comments were that injured workers are returning to work. Well Pearce starving the injured and the vulnerable will force people into work and it will also cause more injuries as many may not be ready or fit for work.

    O’Farrell, Pearce  you are both  scum of the earth your actions and punishments towards the injured are no different to  paedophile’s.

     

  4. Typical of the business lobby to give Barry’s government 8 out of 10, afterall the sole reason for businesses to exist is to make a profit. Have you ever seen them support wage increases? No. Have you ever seen them support any government policy which helps people? No. Even now they are whinging about not getting a tax cut because of the Gonski reforms to help school kids. I would still love to see the stats on WC premiums going down as I don’t believe a word of that. Don’t ever forget that it was business who wanted WC in the first place in order to stop huge payouts under common law and now they want to have everything. You are injured at work, that is your fault. My advise to anyone who gets injured at work in the future is to reject the WC system, sue for strict negligence, rely on Medicare and the Welfare system instead and MAKE THEM PAY big time. It only takes a few multi million dollar cases to make them quiver and remember the system they originally wanted to stop huge payouts. If you are not under WC, you CAN sue them and not have the thresholds apply to you. Great article WCV !!!

  5. Did I hear the NSW Business Chamber say they have jobs for 40,000 now not so permant injured workers? No? So someone tell them to stop throwing around brown nosing awards until they can contribute to the problem instead of making it! I’ll bet they will be first to discriminate against an injured worker instead of helping them. Hypocrites!

  6. Why is it that a group of mongie”s knows the systems fucked sorry really fucked as the latest poll reads and lazy dimwits like pearce and ofarrell wouldn’t have a clue what goes on and the insurers run around offering courses for case managers so Allianz why is that you mention you’ve got the best when it comes to these coarses well why don’t the fuckwits you employ go to your courses

  7. Well said aworkcovervictim and Pauline its absolutely ridiculous that employers get away with injuring workers and then can go on damaging further workers as nothing gets done about the bullying and mobbing that goes on in workplaces. If something was actually done and the worker was looked after it would be the bullies that got the sack not the poor worker.

    Then the workover adds further insult to the injured worker by denying their claim usually based on lies and manufactured reports to make the worker look like they cant do their job. Its about time the employers were made to look at what is going on and be made accountable for what they are doing.

  8. Wonderfully written and argued case aworkcovervictim. The Workover has real problems with the rising wave of psychiatric damage including the damage for which WorkCover is directly responsible. The system is structured such that it automatically causes and aggravates psychiatric disease. So of course it ends up being expensive for them, and utterly desperate for all the injured workers suffering the disease.

    The psychiatric damage does make us hard to employ, but I’ve found it doesn’t have to mean we are condemned to lead permanently unproductive lives. Of course the Workover is totally failing to provide me with support to do that, because somehow they’ve managed to convince themselves that I don’t “deserve” or “warrant” retraining, or that if I did I should be happy to settle for a two week mickey mouse Computer for Beginners course. Like that’s gonna help me make a meaningful and productive working life in ways that accomodate the psychiatric impairments I’m left with after workplace mobbing and ten years in the Workover. I have to be able to work from home, the bullying has left me totally sensitized to groups of more than 3 or 4 people such that PTSD and Major Depression are re-triggered and I’m useless for weeks. Surely I have the right to a working life and to the best possible state of health I can achieve. I am an Injured Worker, but first and foremost, I am a human being. I have rights.