Tony Abbott’s Government planned changes to Comcare, the national workers compensation scheme, simply means that workers of the Commonwealth public agencies will have their current benefits cut back and/or cut off.
Comcare reform: expect cut back of injured workers benefits
The intended Comcare changes are contained in a Bill introduced before the Federal Parliament that would make changes to the current the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. The Bill was recently referred to the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee for a ‘review’ as part of which public submissions were invited.
It is expected that the Education and Employment Legislation Committee will report its ‘review’ by 16 June 2015.
Eric Abetz, the Federal Public Service Minister is the man who stands behind the Comcare reform, and is to make cut backs to the existing Comcare benefits and entitlements as he sees fit “in order to make the Comcare scheme more sustainable”, which essentially means to make Comcare cheaper to run.
The Government’s major focus has been to reduce the increase in employer premiums to the Comcare scheme, which has recently seen some major employers including the ACT Government to leave the Scheme.
However, and as has been the case in all our state workers compensation schemes, instead of focusing on reducing the number of workplace injuries by means of tougher workplace health and safety compliance and the prosecution of health and safety breaches, the proposed Comcare amendments will simply remove or heavily restrict current injured workers’ benefits and entitlements. Again, the preferred easiest way to make the Comcare scheme more “sustainable” at the cost of all poor Commonwealth injured sods.
The changes to Comcare legislation are pretty harsh, and include:
- The number one priority appears to prevent bullied workers and those with psych injuries to make a claim, by changing and broadening the term “reasonable management action”
- Changing the method to calculate injured worker’s entitlements to weekly payments of compensation to a “step down” system (such as those used in our State workcover systems), which means that workers will no longer be entitled to full pay for the first 45 weeks.
- Introducing a new way to determining and assess claims for medical and like expenses, which will make it harder for injured workers to claim medical expenses
- Amending the permanent impairment compensation scheme, which will mean that injured workers with secondary psychological injuries will no longer be able to claim permanent impairment compensation, and that those assessed in the lower impairment levels (which is most injured workers) are awarded even less money/compensation
It is well worth noting that Mr Andrew Stone (president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance) describes the changes to the Comcare scheme as a further hit on injured workers, and Minister Abetz’s comments on “system rorters” as “intellectually dishonest”.
“the ALA remains strongly opposed to these proposed changes“, said Mr Stone
There are also worries that the changes will be used to attract more national private sector companies into a cheaper, heavily watered-down Comcare scheme, and as such out of the (little) fairer Workcover schemes.
See the Comcare site for an overview of all the proposed changes: https://employment.gov.au/frequently-asked-questions-about-safety-rehabilitation-and-compensation-amendment-improving-comcare