It’s now 2015, we’re back, I’m back. Case Managers are back. Legislators are back. Judges are back. Workers are back, and Business is back. And Boy, was 2014 a tumultuous year for a couple of workcover schemes…
2014 was certainly a turbulent year for a few Australian state’s workcover schemes.
Heck, 2014 was also tumultuous for me!
We’re ba-ack and so are workcover case managers, legislators and judges
In the WorkCover world we have seen some notable changes and potentially pending changes in at least five Australian states.
Victoria’s new WorkCover Act (WIRC) became effective on 1 July 2014 and basically consolidated previous workers compensation Acts. They also changed their name from WorkSafe Victoria to the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA) – their old name. See all our WorkCover Victoria related articles for more information.
Also, it has come to our attention that the VWA has or is cutting ‘some’ red tape on approvals process(es) for —mainly— MRI scans, gym and pool rehabilitation, some elective surgery, a range of equipment, and home help for Victorian injured workers. Allegedly injured workers won’t/don’t have to wait as long for some types of medical procedures as a result of changes made. While none of the changes are significant, they should help relieve some of the frustrations encountered by injured workers who —more often than not— have to wait for weeks or even months to have their medical treatment approved by the VWA (and insurer), which would greatly enhance our injured chances of recovery (mentally and/or physically). Again, only time will tell if the ‘approval process’ has really improved!
The main changes include:
- MRI – scans can now be approved by a doctor without a VWA agent’s approval.
- Gym and Swim – allied health professionals such as physios, chiropractors and osteopaths are now able to authorise courses of treatment.
- Elective surgery – it appears that “straightforward” types of surgery may be approved more promptly; although what “straightforward” and “promptly” mean has yet to be clarified.
- Household help – some help with household chores may be approved without the need for their independent experts to prepare a report and make recommendations
- Special or customised mattresses – may be approved at an agent.
- And there has been a relaxation of requirements around inpatient rehabilitation.
Queensland: Of important note is that the injury threshold was introduced and some other important changes were made. (The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (Qld)). See all our WorkCover QLD related articles for more info and refer to WorkCover QLD for the detailed changes.
Western Australia : In October 2014, the WA Government has approved the drafting of a bill to repeal and replace the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981. They’re basically proposing to repeal the WA workers compensation laws and replace them with a more ‘user-friendly’ Act that includes a new ‘worker’ definition to help employers easier determine whether or not a worker is covered by the workcover scheme. A discussion paper was released, referring to the proposal to enhance “readability and consistency” in the legislation. For more info, visit WorkCover WA’s website – Legislative Review.
South Australia: The dreaded and harsh legislation to reform the SA workers’ compensation has passed the South Australian Parliament on 30 Oct 2014, and will come into effect in July 2015. The new legislation is called the new “harder!” ‘Return to Work Bill’!
The Government’s reforms are aimed at delivering better outcomes for injured workers and their employers, within a financially sustainable scheme.
The first stage of reform was completed during 2013. It consisted of a new WorkCover Charter, a new WorkCover Performance Statement and amendments to the WorkCover Corporation Act 1994 to increase Board accountability.
After a long period of discussion with key parties, including employer and employee representatives, the details of a new scheme have been finalised.
On 6 August 2014, the Minister for Industrial Relations, Hon. John Rau, introduced into Parliament the Return to Work Bill 2014 and the South Australian Employment Tribunal Bill 2014 to replace South Australia’s current WorkCover legislation.
The Minister’s second reading speech and the explanation of clauses for each bill provide information about the intent of this proposed legislation.
- Second reading speech for the Return to Work Bill 2014
- Second reading speech for the South Australian Employment Tribunal Bill 2014
The new bills aim to enact a new Return to Work scheme starting on 1 July 2015, that is fair, effective and sustainable. ReturnToWorkSA will be responsible for administering the new Scheme.
The new legislation has an absolute focus on return to work for those injured workers able to do so, with emphasis on early intervention and obligations on ReturnToWorkSA and its agents, employers and workers to achieve those return to work outcomes.
A new policy statement is available to support the Return to Work Bill 2014.
New South Wales: On 3 September 2014 the NSW Government introduced a number of “enhancements” to workers compensation benefits. These changes were introduced by the Workers Compensation Amendment (Existing Claims) Regulation 2014 and apply to workers who sustained a workplace injury and who had made a claim for compensation for before 1 October 2012. These changes do not apply to workers who made a claim after that date.
The changes allow:
- for the insurer to meet the cost of any secondary surgery
- that workers may receive weekly payments while a work capacity decision is being reviewed
- workers with whole person impairment of 21% to 30% to have access to medical and related expenses up until retiring age
- workers to continue to receive certain medical and related expenses until retiring age
- entitlement to weekly payments for up to one year after retiring age.
More information is available in the below fact sheets:
- Workers compensation changes: Fact sheet
- Workers compensation changes: Q&As for workers
- Workers compensation changes: Q&As for employers
So yep, I’m back, and we’re back because the more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂 there’s lots to write about, lots to discuss and debate and perhaps lots to reflect upon. However, saying that, we do sometimes wonder if we’ll have anything to write about. I mean, honestly, what can be so interesting about workcover? Same sh*t, different year!
In my personal, injured life I have (and still am) struggling with quite a nasty and painfully debilitating infection of my dominant total reverse shoulder prosthetic, for which I have been in and out of hospital – as recently as over the Xmas period (!) The major part of my 2014 (and current) breakfasts, lunches and dinners consist mainly of antibiotics (yuck!). Obviously feeling physically unwell (fevers etc), being in pain and in hospital have all contributed to decreased ‘activity’ on the blog. Thank you, Captain Harryrort for keeping us afloat! And please remind me I ask Santa next year for one of those mobile sticks (portable modem to connect to the internet when in hospital!).
Welcome to 2015!
[Dictated and transcribed by WCV3 on behalf of WCV]