The NSW government has phased in workers’ compensation reforms gradually, with the latest changes introduced on Friday.
Workers’ compensation laws are undergoing substantial changes, following the NSW government’s commitment to reforms in August. NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet pledged $1 billion towards a package aimed at delivering structural modifications, premium reductions for safety-conscious organisations and better benefits for injured employees.
Changes to the state’s workers’ compensation legislation are being phased in over time, with the latest amendments announced on Friday (December 4). Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the developments are good news for “thousands of injured workers” in the state.
New benefits that now apply include:
Minimum weekly compensation amounts for workers with the most significant requirements
Medical expenses coverage for life for high-needs employees
Lifelong hearing aids and prosthesis for all claimants
Weekly payment protection while work capacity decisions are considered
Longer entitlement periods for medical expenses
The NSW government is introducing the reforms under the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2015. Further changes are expected next year after public consultation, including regulations surrounding legal costs and return-to-work arrangements.
Last month, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) unveiled a new regulation that allowed people who made workers’ compensation claims prior to June 19 2012 to pursue an additional lump sum payout if their conditions had worsened.
SIRA Chief Executive Anthony Lean said the ability to receive extra payments for permanent impairments was removed in 2012, but the government reversed this decision due to the outcome of a recent case.
Mr Lean stated: “SIRA and [the] NSW government remain committed to providing benefits to those injured workers that need it the most, while ensuring the financial sustainability of the scheme and delivering ongoing savings to business.”
New guidelines for assessing permanent impairments were also released last month, with WorkCover NSW claiming the updated regulations would assist medical practitioners’ diagnoses.
Workers compensation reforms. The NSW government has introduced a range of new workers’ compensation regulations.
Further workers’ compensation changes
Workers’ compensation is designed to provide financial stability for employees who are injured while performing their jobs. Successful claims can result in a variety of payments, depending on the specific circumstances of individual cases.
The NSW government believes the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2015 will provide significant benefits to injured staff. The changes introduced in October include:
Maximum permanent impairment payments increased to $577,050
Death benefits lump sum payments raised to $750,000
Maximum funeral expenses allowance upped to $12,000
Weekly payments extension for 12 months after retirement
Aside from the previously mentioned benefits brought into effect on December 4, eligible claimants can also now receive secondary surgery compensation. This would cover all medical expenses for the operation, as well as post-surgery treatments such as physiotherapy and medication.
Under old legislation, these payments were restricted to a 12-month period after weekly payments had finished. However, the NSW government has extended the timeframe in which secondary surgeries can be approved.
The Insurance & Regulation Reform Package 2015 website used the example of an employee who suffers serious burns to their arm. After the initial surgery, the individual returns to work and their compensation payments stop.
If the worker later needs skin grafts to improve hand function, they would now have two years from the date the original surgery was approved to receive the green light for further treatment. According to the NSW government, the changes will benefit 1,700 existing workers, as well as any new claimants.
“These reforms have been developed from the ground up by talking to injured workers, meeting with businesses and engaging with our stakeholders,” said Mr Perrottet in August.
The legislation surrounding these issues can be complex, so anyone who sustains an injury in the workplace should contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss the incident in more detail.