Queensland Workers’ Compensation Review Report Released

As some of you may be aware, and as we stated under our “legislation” page under section Queensland, in March last year the Workcover QLD Scheme ‘s operation came under inquiry.
The Queensland Parliament has now handed down its much anticipated review into the state’s workers’ compensation system.


Given the significant changes and reforms made as the result of similar reviews into workers’ compensation schemes in other States, most notably New South Wales, the Committee’s recommendations are fairly limited.

Madame Zena has written the following article summarising the report’s main recommendations into the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme, which maybe of interest to our Queensland blog readers.

Of note is that it took our amazing co-author “Madame Zena” almost as long to track down a copy of the darn report than is was to read the 300 page report and summarise the main recommendations! The Queensland Government certainly did not go out of their way to make finding or getting hold of the report easy!!

Queensland Workers’ Compensation Review Report Released

Madame-Zena-authorby co-author Madame Zena
The most significant recommendations relate to psychological injury claims.

Most remarkably, the Committee has left the door open for the Queensland Government to consider whether all psychological injury claims arising out of workplace bullying be specifically excluded from the workers’ compensation scheme.

What has happened?

The Finance and Administration Parliamentary Committee tabled its report following its inquiry into the operation of the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme.

Background

In June 2012, the Queensland Government announced that the Finance and Administration Committee would inquire into and report on the operation of the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme. The Committee was required to consider:

  • the performance of the scheme;
  • how the scheme compared to other states;
  • WorkCover’s current and future financial position and impact on the Queensland economy;
  • whether the 2010 reforms addressed the growth of common law claims and claims costs;
  • whether the current self-insurance arrangements continue to be appropriate; and
  • whether previous recommendations and changes were performing as expected.

The Committee tabled its report on 23 May 2013.

Recommendations

The Committee has made 32 recommendations in its report. The following is a snapshot of the most significant recommendations made.

Topic

Recommendations

Definition of worker

       That the definition of worker remain unchanged.

       That schedule 2 of the Act be amended to strengthen who is or is not considered to be a worker.

Definition of injury

       That the definition of injury be retained in its current form (with the exception of psychological injuries discussed below).

Journey claims

       That the current provisions relating to journey claims be retained.

Psychological injuries

       That psychological injuries be included under separate provisions within the legislation.

       That the definition of psychological injury be amended to include two types of psychological injuries, that is, traumatic event psychological injuries (category A) and all other psychological injuries (category B).

       That the current exclusions for reasonable management action be removed and replaced with specific exemptions for normal workplace practices, such as:

   where action is taken to transfer, demote, discipline, redeploy, retrench or dismiss the worker;

   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; and

   action by the Authority or an insurer in connection with the worker’s application for compensation.

       That the definition of psychological injury be amended to be ‘the major significant contributing factor’ rather than the current ‘a significant contributing factor’ for category B psychological injury claims.

Workplace bullying

       That the Attorney-General initiate a review of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to consider whether recompense to victims of workplace bullying could be made through mechanisms in that Act rather than through the Workers’ Compensation Scheme.

Return to work programs

       That the legislation be amended to include a requirement that employers must have a Return to Work Coordinator (RRTWC) where they have statutory claims totalling 15 or more work days lost in any year and wages in Queensland for the preceding year totalling $2.146 million or more.

       That the Department implement an accreditation system for RRTWC.

       That the legislation be amended to make it mandatory for insurers to refer injured workers to an accredited return to work program if they are making a common law claim for future economic loss on the basis that they are unemployed, except where the worker can demonstrate they are unable to participate in a return to work program.

Impairment thresholds

       That the existing provisions in relation to access to common law be retained, that is, that no impairment thresholds be introduced on accessing common law rights.

Self-insurance

       That no changes be made to the existing self-insurance arrangements.

       That the legislation be amended to give the Minister flexibility to grant an extension of self-insurance arrangements for a further period for existing self-insurers.

What does it mean?

Considering the breadth and scope of the submissions proposed which included recommendations to eliminate journey claims, impose a threshold for common law claims, and lower the requirement for employers to self insure, the Committee’s recommendations are fairly limited.

The most significant recommendations are those relating to psychological injuries.

The Committee recommended that the definition of psychological injury be amended so that work is “the major significant contributing factor” rather than “a significant contributing factor”. Whilst this change will result in some claims that previously would have been accepted now being excluded, this stricter definition is however in line with the definition used in all other States.

Interestingly, the Committee has also recommended that the legislation be amended so that psychological injury claims be separated into two distinct types of claims – “Traumatic Event Claims” (Category A) and “All Other Claims” (Category B).

Category A – Traumatic Event Claims.

Where a psychological injury is attested to by medical evidence and it results from an event or series of events that deliver such significant trauma that it would reasonably be expected it would impact adversely in the short, medium and long term on a significant proportion or the majority of the population were they exposed to such significant events.

Trauma claims would be strictly limited to such events as armed hold-up, workplace invasion, hostage, kidnap, rape, serious work related assault occasioning bodily harm or where workers are exposed to victims of road and rail fatality incidents in the course of their employment.

Category A Trauma Claims are to be clearly defined in the Act as “no-fault” claims and are to be fast-tracked through the same quicker claims assessment process as are physical injury claims.

Category B – All Other Claims.

All psychological injury claims other than those identified above. This would include claims such as all types of workplace bullying, harassment, unreasonable management action etc. and those types of claims where it is anticipated it would only produce a lasting psychological injury to people whose pre-existing psyche is vulnerable. The Committee considers that the level of proof required for acceptance of a claim under the second type of claim should be quite high.

Category B All Other Claims will to continue to be “at-fault” claims as they are currently under the Act, where the injured worker bares the sole onus of proof to prove that the cause of their psychological injury was not as a result of the one of the many exclusions under the Act. Category B claims will continue to be assessed as current under the more rigorous and slower claims assessment process.

The Committee also noted the high rejection rate of psychological injury claims. After all internal and external review and appeal decisions are taken into account, the rejection rate for psychological injury claims still runs at approximately 60% as compared to 2% for physical injury claims. Amongst other factors, the Committee noted that there continues to be many psychological claims being lodged for non-work related or non-compensable issues or what can be categorised as “short-lived disappointment or resentment” (for example missing out on a promotion). The lodgement of such claims are having the effect of weighing down the claims assessment system to the determent of the timely assessment and acceptance of valid psychological injury claims. It was considered that there remains widespread misunderstanding in the community as to what workers compensation was and was not for and what constitutes an valid claim for psychological injury under the Act. It was suggested that there be greater community education undertaken to increase employee awareness of what is and what is not a valid claim for psychological injury is under the Act to alleviate this problem.

Lastly, it is surprising and disturbing that the Committee has recommended that it be considered as to whether claims arsing out of workplace bullying be specifically excluded from the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme. The Committee stated in its report that it recognised that work place bullying is an issue in some Queensland workplaces. That claims arising out of alleged incidents of work place bullying were growing at an exponential rate and will have the potential to impact on the Workers’ Compensation Scheme through higher psychological claim rates. That the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 allows for fines and imprisonment of work place bullies. The Committee recommended that the Attorney-General should initiate a review of that Act with a view to considering whether recompense to victims of workplace bullying should be made through mechanisms in that Act rather than through the Workers’ Compensation Scheme.

What happens next?

Following tabling, the parliament will debate the report in the coming weeks and the Minister is required to table a response within three months.

 

The full report including recommendations can be found on the Parliament’s website. All submissions to the review, including Q-COMP’s, can also be found on the Parliament’s website.

 

 

 



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7 Responses to “Queensland Workers’ Compensation Review Report Released”

  1. Very interesting article. Thanks, Madame Zena. The medical profession have accepted that forms of workplace bullying create traumatic psychiatric injuries in its victims. That explains why they’ve separated psych injuries into those that get the goods, and those that get a fast ride to hell. They intend to continue the traumatisation and victimisation with a newly defined target set of “malingering nutters”, i.e those that get bullied at work. I’m sure they’ve got some fabulous public re-imaging/stigmatisation of these injured workers ready to flood the airways.

    Mmm, this level of traumatisation from workplace and Workover injury can’t continue forever. This site is a tribute to the fact that the pile of workover victims is reaching cricital mass, a point at which we will no longer be invisible to the rest of the world.

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  2. Thank you Madame Zena for all of your efforts and hard work you do for this site.What a joke, as Pauline says. This is in itself is discrimination for category A & B person. The Psychological injuries of A or B are what they are. Some people have physical injuries, lets say with a back injury some can walk, some people have back injuries and cannot walk. Surely after all the Government have spent on their enquiry, that Managements of all Organisations should be taking the steps to not have ANY injuries. It was suggested that there be greater community education undertaken to increase employee awareness of what is and what is not a valid claim for psychological injury is under the Act to alleviate this problem.The Committee stated in its report that it recognised that work place bullying is an issue in some Queensland workplaces.Why are they not targeting those Employers. Assist injured workers with their injuries instead of deny delay and destroy people’s lives for years. Take requested Medical expert opinions to support injuries, retrain, and assist injured workers to continue complete and happy lives before they had these injuries.  No one goes to work, never to work again!

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    • before the last election in Queensland Cameron Dick announced a so called project in relation to bullying…I have some nice letters from him LMAO…however as you all know…there was a change of government…end of project LOL

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  3. Loving reading some of the comments in the report by employers like:

    -…the fact is that at the moment ‘a significant’ can mean one per cent. So you are getting claims in where people may just be at work walking along, their knee goes, they fracture a foot and they are not doing any type of work but because there is one per cent significant in that they are at work you are wearing very expensive claims. So I agree it should go back to ‘the major’

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  4. for a load of b.s. read section 4.4.1 How a typical psychological injury claim is assessed by Workcover.

    Although I have to agree with the bit “The Department advised that Workcover takes a wide interpretation of the term reasonable management action” (p65) – ie. they reject a lot of claims they shouldn’t.

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  5. Deniedcover is the company i wish to start and need help so if any ideas feel fee to email andrew_glen@hotmail.comThe company will be a company who our. motto “investigate the investigation” on how workcover has denied a claim and if found negligence on workcover the insurance cover and all officers in the review are fined or jailed for fraud.Deniedcover favour noone employer and employee are equal.we talk to both parties.our company will attend the site where workers is allegedly injured without notice..we take pictures aand statements from witnesses..we will fight to have all phone calls recorded between between both parties..Workcover will have no right unless authorised to ring or interfere with doctors treatment of their patient.if a injured worker has been injured previously and they seen workcover (imp) and he is given the go ahead their better.Because it is doctor is workcover doctor because they injured again automatically approved claim.Workcover cannot threaten or intimidate any parties involved.A doctor is a medical person who has studied and treated for many years,they should not have to be pressured by workcover office sitting workers.PLease feel free to email or comment your support this company.Injured workers do not nneed to be bullied and harrassed by workcover we can make a stand.

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