Government Targets Workers Compensation Benefits
In coming weeks the NSW government will be reviewing the whole system of workers’ compensation and payouts to injured workers.
The aim is to prevent a deepening deficit in the WorkCover scheme. It’s already at $4 billion, and Premier Barry O’Farrell said that in the last six months it had grown by $9 million a day.
The Premier said there was no proposal to cut benefits to injured workers, but he said the government was going to have to look at all aspects of the scheme. He said premiums for employers’ insurance were twice that of other states and the gap was growing.
Mr O’Farrell said the government will announce details of its overhaul of WorkCover within a month.
The government will be looking at ways of making workplaces safer to prevent injuries. Despite improvements in safety programs, there are still a tragic number of accidents in the workplace.
During 2009-2010, 216 Australians died from injuries sustained at work. A total of 640,700 Australians reported a work related illness or injury. It’s estimated that 2,000 Australians die each year from a work-related illness.
The total cost of workplace illness and injury for the 2008-2009 financial year was $60.6 billion – 4.8 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
The Bureau of Statistics found just over half of those injured – 56 per cent – were men. It’s hardly surprising most injuries were among manual labourers, machine operators and drivers. But it is surprising that a large number worked in community and personal services, accommodation and food services, arts and entertainment and transport.
According to Safe Work Australia there were 134,800 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia in 2007-08. Despite having a lower injury rate than men, women spent more time off work due to serious claims. The median time lost from work was 4.8 weeks for women and 3.6 weeks for men.
At the same time the average payment for serious claims increased from $5,500 in 2003-04 to $6,900 in 2007-08.
But don’t think everyone who is injured at work lodges a claim for workers’ comp. The Bureau of Statistics said only one in five work related injuries end in compensation claims.
If you have been injured at work and haven’t yet received any help it would be worth contacting a lawyer specialising in workers’ compensation so you are aware of what help and benefits may be available.
It would be better to do this soon, before the government makes changes to the scheme as tightening of the regulations and benefits seem inevitable.