A billion-dollar workers compensation package has been announced in a winding back of some of the measures that stripped New South Wales’ workers of entitlements. Is this true or are we dreaming? Perhaps let’s wait for the fine print!
Billion-dollar workers compensation package overhaul announced for New South Wales employees
By Lucy McNally
Posted about 3 hours ago
A billion-dollar workers compensation package has been announced in a winding back of some of the measures that stripped New South Wales’ workers of entitlements.
In 2012 the State Government overhauled workers compensation under the former premier Barry O’Farrell, aimed at reining in Work Cover’s $4 billion deficit.
The changes were heavily criticised because they slashed medical benefits for workers including people who had lost limbs and hearing.
Last year an independent report found the scheme was skewed towards employers, because workers have more restrictions than insurance companies in using lawyers.
NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet has today announced the Government is spending $1 billion on a new package.
“This is a system that places the injured workers and businesses at the centre of decision making,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Now that we are on a financially stable footing after fixing Labor’s $4.1 billion scheme deficit, we can proceed with the next stage of reform to better support injured workers, incentivise safe workplaces and keep premiums down.”
Workers to access more money for medical expenses
Under the new scheme, injured workers will have access to more money for medical expenses, with certain prostheses being covered and other “life aids”.
There will also be increased lump sum payments and minimum weekly payments to injured workers, as well as money to help people retrain and return to work.
The minister said the reform package also benefits employers, with five to 20 per cent discounts in premiums for businesses that maintain safe workplaces and help injured workers return to work.
“These reforms honour the Government’s election commitment to provide two-thirds of every dollar, above the amount to keep the scheme sustainable, to support injured workers and one-third to lower premiums for business,” Mr Perrottet said.
Ricky Wilson suffered a ruptured cervical spine while working as an apprentice fitter in West Gosford in 2011.
It’s definitely a start, especially with the medicals for life they’re offering because with my condition I will deteriorate a lot quicker than just anybody
Worker Ricky Wilson
At the time of his injury the old compensation scheme was in place, but within six months Work Cover was overhauled and he lost many benefits.
“It was so frustrating, I was under so much financial strain and all of a sudden legal costs weren’t covered so to be able to get help from the workers compensation scheme we had to hire a solicitor because we didn’t know everything,” he said.
“We were left out of pocket.”
Now 25, Mr Wilson has had an operation, costing around $40,000.
He said claiming that money back was an ordeal – it was originally denied, and took nine months to be approved after several appeals.
“This injury will be for life and I’m on medicine for the rest of my life, I need constant treatment such as physiotherapy,” he said.
Mr Wilson said he was pleased the Government announced the package.
“It’s definitely a start, especially with the medicals for life they’re offering because with my condition I will deteriorate a lot quicker than just anybody and it’s more than likely I will need some form of surgery in my later years of life,” he said.
“I’m also glad they’re going to offer retraining grants because I can’t work in my field any more so all the experience I learned from my previous job is pretty much out the window.”
Mr Wilson said even four years on, his injury remains a heavy psychological burden.
“I have a nine-month-old girl and I really struggle with that – I can only lift her for a certain amount of time,” he said.
“It’s definitely depressing being able to not look after your child and relying on your wife.”
[Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-04/billion-dollar-workers-compensation-package-overhaul-announced/6671052] And kindly expressed shared by EmPea
NSW government to wind back WorkCover cuts to injured workers
4 August 2015
The Baird government is winding back controversial changes to the Workers’ Compensation Scheme by restoring $1 billion in benefits to injured workers and businesses.
The NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet, is expected to put the new reform package to the joint party room on Tuesday morning.
The changes include a major overhaul of WorkCover to address a conflict of interest in its dual role as safety regulator and insurer. The authority will be split into three agencies to separate its safety and insurance functions and to assist injured workers during the claims process.
Changes introduced in 2012 by the former Finance Minister Paul Pearce and Premier Barry O’Farrell resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers, including those who had lost limbs or their hearing in workplace accidents. Fairfax Media understands Premier Mike Baird has been concerned that the cuts in medical benefits went too far.
Mr Perrottet said the government was now “creating a fairer system”.
“A system that is financially sustainable now and into the future,” he said.
Medical benefits to injured workers were cut in 2012 in response to a $4.1 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme, which is now in surplus.
“Now that we are on a financially stable footing after fixing Labor’s $4.1 billion scheme deficit, we can proceed with the next stage of reform to better support injured workers, incentivise safe workplaces and keep premiums down,” Mr Perrottet said.
Businesses that improve their performance in workplace safety and injury prevention will be rewarded with premium discounts of 5 to 20 per cent, worth a total of $170 to $200 million.
Improvements in benefits for injured workers will include an increased entitlement to medical expenses, prostheses and hearing aids.
The threshold for injured workers with permanent impairment entitled to lifelong medical expenses will be lowered from 30 to 20 per cent of impairment to their whole body.
Under the changes, all people in need of prosthetics and hearing aids, who are currently denied benefits, will now get them for life.
Medical benefits will be extended from 12 months to two years for people with less serious injuries (up to 10 per cent impairment).
For those with more serious injuries (11 to 20 per cent impairment), medical benefits will be provided for five years.
The lump sum death benefit will increase from $524,000 to up to $750,000. And funeral expenses for families of workers who are killed will increase from $9000 to $15,000.
Mr Perrottet said the reforms honour the government’s election commitment to provide two-thirds of every dollar, above the amount needed to sustain the scheme, to support injured workers. One-third would be used to lower insurance premiums for business.
“We have simplified the system for all who engage with it, enhanced benefits to better support injured workers, and provided substantial discounts on premiums to drive safer workplaces,” he said.
The three new agencies that will replace WorkCover include SafeWork NSW, which will be responsible for work health and safety regulation including safety inspections of work sites.
A second agency called Insurance & Care NSW (icare) will focus on improving service delivery to injured workers, including the tracking of claims processing.
The third agency, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), will regulate all state insurance schemes, including workers’ compensation and third party insurance.
No job losses are expected to result from the restructure.
Greens MP David Shoebridge, who was a member of a recent upper house parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover, said the inquiry demonstrated the need to restore medical benefits to injured workers.
“This is a scheme in which injured workers have been paying the price and the only benefit has been a swollen surplus,” he said.