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Proposed Deregulation of Workers Compensation

In proposed changes that could reduce entitlements to injured workers in NSW but save business $30 million, the Federal Government has indicated that it will allow businesses that operate in more than one state to leave State based worker’s compensation schemes and join the Federal worker’s compensation scheme known as Comcare.

Some national companies that operate in more than one State and Territory in Australia may have to deal with as many as 8 different worker’s compensation schemes.

Opening the Federal Comcare system up to companies that operate over State borders will mean those companies can deal with just one workers compensation system and can avoid having to deal with multiple workers compensation schemes of each State and Territory in which they operate.

At present, all employees of Federal Government agencies and statutory authorities, ACT government agencies and a number of licensed corporations, including Telstra and Australia Post are covered by the Comcare scheme.

The bad news for injured workers however, is that the Comcare scheme is known to be extremely complex and is much less generous than the NSW workers compensation scheme.

Of particular note is that the Federal system does not allow for the payment of the injured worker’s legal costs. The injured worker pays their own legal costs in the Comcare scheme. This often results in injured workers not seeking legal advice about their claims and not being fully informed about their rights and various entitlements under the Comcare scheme.

Comcare benefits available to injured workers include medical expenses and rehabilitation costs; travel costs in attending treatment; household and attendant care services; incapacity payments (lost wages); and a possible lump sum payment if the injury results in permanent impairment which exceeds a certain percentage threshold.

For lump sum permanent impairment claims, Comcare will determine whether:-

  1. the worker has an impairment;
  2. the impairment is permanent;
  3. there is an assessable impairment under Comcare Guide to the Assessment of the Degree of Permanent Impairment – Edition 2.1; and
  4. the degree of impairment meets the thresholds for compensation.

The degree of impairment is expressed as a percentage of ‘whole person impairment’. The thresholds that will be compensated are:-

  • Most compensable injuries – 10% whole person impairment;
  • Hearing loss – 5% whole person impairment (with some exceptions); and
  • Loss of fingers, toes, sense of taste or smell – No threshold.

This means that to be eligible for lump sum compensation for injury (other than hearing loss) the injury must be assessed as being more than a 10% whole person impairment. An impairment of 10% or less will mean that no lump sum payment for injury will be payable by Comcare.

So if say you haveĀ a finger or toe torn off at work and the employer was negligent, you will notget any lump sum payment for the injury. However, you will still be entitled to weekly benefits and medical expenses for your time off work if liability is accepted.

This area of the law can be quite technical and complicated. It is always important to seek legal advice on your rights if you are injured during the course of your employment.

Contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 for more information on your legal rights.

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