2013 kicked off on a very bad note for the 38,500 injured workers in NSW, with more cuts to the state workers’ compensation scheme.
Thousands of people who made workers’ compensation claims before October have had their payments slashed and a new assessment system will make it more difficult for people with existing claims to continue receiving the same weekly payments.
The main changes made by the Liberal Government include
- Removed workers compensation coverage for trips to and from work
- Reduced weekly payments to injured workers
- Stopped weekly payments for most injured workers after 2 ½ years
- Capped medical payments for injured workers
- Heart attacks and strokes are no longer covered
- Stopped partners of those killed at work from claiming for nervous shock
- Stopped lump sum payments for pain and suffering
Though paramedics, police officers, coal miners, and fire-fighters continue to operate under the old laws, everyone else has been shunted into the new system.
Workers’ compensation payments will now cease after two-and-a-half years, unless there is a total incapacity for work. Yet even for those with a total incapacity, payments will still end after five years, except in the most severe and rare of cases.
The capacity test is designed to make it as difficult as possible for people to continue receiving payments. Under the new system, if you have been employed in one capacity, but you are assessed as capable of working in another capacity – even if there is no actual job being offered to you – your weekly payments will be terminated three months after the work capacity assessment. In other words, you can be given a ‘virtual’ job and taken off the workers’ compensation system.
You can see how insurers could easily take advantage of such a system. And the government has left the door open to further change by allowing several areas to change ‘by regulation’ – i.e. just announcing them on the government website.
To protect HSU members travelling to and from work, the HSU has taken out Journey Insurance to provide you with income support if you are off work after a journey injury. This policy will pay you 85% of your weekly wage (including penalties and overtime) for up to two years. Find out more here
SOME QUESTIONS ANSWERED
What is the new system for calculating weekly payments?
The calculation is based on “pre-injury average weekly earnings”. For those on weekly payments before 1 October 2012, your “pre-injury average weekly earnings” are defined as $906.25. You will be entitled to, at best, 95% of this amount for the first 13 weeks then, at best, 80% of this amount thereafter. Injured workers working at least 15 hours a week will continue to receive, at best, 95% after week 14.
What is happening with Medical Expenses?
- Medical and other treatment expenses are capped and will only be paid for a period of up to 12 months after you are injured or stop receiving weekly payments, whichever is longer.
- If you made your workers compensation claim prior to 1 October 2012 and are not receiving any weekly payments, medical expenses will cease to be covered from 1 January 2014