Overhaul Of NSW Workers Compensation Scheme Welcome
The announcement by the Baird NSW government that it is overhauling the workers’ compensation scheme is welcome. Finance Minister Dominic Perrotet has announced $1 billion worth of benefits for injured workers will be restored. Previously severe restrictions on who can receive compensation for injuries in the workplace will be relaxed.
The changes come after a determined campaign by Stacks Law Firm and groups representing injured workers against the harsh and severe cuts to workers compensation made by the government in 2012. These cuts resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers including those who had sustained serious injury in workplace accidents.
Perrotet said the government was now moving to a fairer system that will better support injured workers. Improvements in benefits will include increased entitlements to medical expenses, prosthesis and hearing aids.
The threshold for injured workers with permanent impairment who are entitled to lifelong medical expenses will be lowered from 30 to 20 per cent impairment to the body.
People who are currently denied benefits for prosthetics and hearing aids will get them for life. Medical benefits will be extended from 12 months to two years beyond when they last received weekly benefits for people with less serious injuries that are up to ten per cent impairment.
For those with more serious injuries that involve 11 to 20 per cent impairment, medical benefits will be provided for five years beyond the date those people last received weekly benefits.
The lump sum death benefit will increase from $524,000 to $750,000 and funeral expenses will rise from $9,000 to $15,000.
The changes go to Cabinet on Tuesday. They also include a major overhaul of WorkCover to address a conflict of interest in its dual role as both safety regulator and insurer. WorkCover will be split into three agencies to separate its safety and insurance functions.
“We welcome the restoration of many of the injured workers’ benefits that were drastically cut three years ago,” said Stacks Law Firm chairman Tim Stack OAM.
“Those cuts had a devastating impact on many injured workers and their families,” he said. “Hopefully there can be further relaxations of these harsh laws in the future.”
“We hope these increased benefits will ease the pain for injured workers, but it remains to be seen how these latest changes to the scheme will work out in practice.”