Workcover authorities in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have confirmed the number of prosecuted (injured workers) frauds is very small – so negligible, in fact, it’s an almost incalculable fraction of the overall number of claims. Notwithstanding the evidence the media still tend to give a seriously skewed presentation on the fraud problems with the system.
Although the following journalist admits that injured workers’ fraud is in fact negligible, he still highlights 3 cases of fraud and in detail. In addition he also highlights the consequence of [the perception of widespread fraud] ends up being employee stigmatisation.
Injured workers’ stigmatisation s basically an institutionally-embedded expectation that all injured workers will violate or abuse entitlements. This has been embedded into our society through the media (i.e. exposed “fraud” by injured workers; special anti-fraud branch of WorkSafe; overuse of IMEs, Video surveillance etc.) and is basically achieved through practices and bureaucracy (i.e. Doctor, IME validation of injury/illness, forms for employers etc). And, yes, this adds a social injury to a physical injury
So why the need to provide lengthily details in his article about those 3 fraud cases? It only reinforces the belief that injured workers are all fraudsters. Again, we believe this is a media stinger, under disguise.
How many people are really rorting the workcover system?
The dodgy side of workers’ comp
by Work in Progress | 2 July 2015
James Adonis is one of Australia’s best-known people-management thinkers
As a kid, I remember hearing an uncle of mine, now deceased, boasting about the workers’ compensation payments he’d been receiving for years. It was some sort of neck injury, one that didn’t actually exist but enabled him to proudly rort the system. I was appalled anyone could view this as a badge of honour, which is what he (and his family) smugly did.
Fast forward to last month and the revelation Australian public sector workers were faking serious medical conditions in order to apply for workers’ comp payments. Complaints of fraud have apparently increased by 15 per cent in the past year, with many employees allegedly using the time off work to earn extra income via a second job.
And that’s in the public service where the funds, resources and manpower exist to handle these abuses. It’s a much harder exercise in small businesses that are often constrained by time and money. Indeed, depending on the state you’re in and the size of your business, your premiums increase in concert with your claims history.
Here are a few recent examples of people who were caught cheating the system. All three (and more) are freely available on the prosecutions page of Victoria’s WorkSafe website. What this means is that if you’re so inclined to take the system for a ride and you’re subsequently busted, your name will forever be plastered on the inerasable forum that is the world wide web.
One bloke claimed to have injured his back and was awarded generous weekly payments … until he was observed being the driver in a high-speed motor race. Really, you’d think you’d lay low, right? He had to pay back more than $97,000 and in November was given a suspended prison sentence of six months.
Another guy, while pulling a trolley at his workplace, strained his muscles, ligaments, neck and back, and was therefore declared unfit for work. But despite being in regular receipt of workers’ comp payments, he was captured by covert surveillance working as a tyre fitter during which he was effortlessly bending and pulling, lifting and carrying, and handling heavy stuff. He was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in restitution and to perform 400 hours of community service.
The third case is the most remarkable. A female employee had a workplace accident that resulted in the amputation of her leg, thereby rendering her wheelchair-bound. Her workers’ comp payments were then justifiably inflated to account for the 24-hour care she needed. Except she wasn’t actually wheelchair-bound. And she didn’t have any carers looking after her. She was sentenced to 12 months in jail and had to pay back $112,000.
Despite the above, an analysis published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2012 suggests the prevalence of workers’ comp fraud is actually a myth perpetrated by employers and insurance companies. The collective ambition of these bedfellows is seemingly to curtail the benefits provided to those who are injured at work even though the proportion of cases found to be fraudulent is quite tiny.
Similarly, workers’ comp authorities in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have confirmed for me this week the number of prosecuted frauds here is just as small – so negligible, in fact, it’s an almost incalculable fraction of the overall number of claims. For example, in the most populous state, NSW, there have been just five prosecutions in the past two years.
So while the anti-workers’ compensation rhetoric continues to be louder than the reality, the consequence ends up being employee stigmatisation. It’s a stigma that compels those who are legitimately entitled to make a claim to refrain from doing so because they’re fearful of the impact it’ll have on their reputation and their career.
Which is another example of a few bad eggs spoiling it for everyone else.