03:09 pm, Monday 23 April, 2012
The O’Farrell government will cut back on workers compensation by slashing lump-sum payments for injured workers and abolishing long-term recipients of weekly benefits from the scheme after a set period.
The NSW government has flagged its intention to amend the $13 billion WorkCover system, which is currently facing a deficit of up to $5 billion dollars. A statement is expected to be released on Tuesday.
According to the Sun-Herald, lawyers and union representatives estimate that half of the 28,000 workers presently receiving benefits and medical expenses would no longer receive a cent under the new scheme.
Barrister Bruce McManamey of the Australian Lawyers Alliance said that the reforms will result to “injured workers losing their homes.” Workplace lawyers said that the reforms, once implemented, would transform NSW into “the meanest system in the country.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the reforms would include:
- Abolishment of lump-sum payments for injured workers with “less than 10 percent whole-body impairment (and therefore excluding payment for injuries such as fused ankle or back and neck injuries not requiring surgery).
- Weekly payments cut-off for workers considered to be partially injured after 2 ½ years (or 130 weeks).
- Nine years limit for all entitlements excluding workers who are considered “totally incapacitated.”
Injured workers are currently receiving 100 percent of their ordinary pay for the first 26 weeks off work. Under the new reforms, there would be a sliding scale in which the most that an injured worker could collect is 90 percent of their wage. This would fall to 80 percent after 13 weeks before reverting to the statutory rate.
Mr McManamey said that the New South Wales has currently one of the better schemes, but said the state would have the meanest system in Australia once the changes take place.
“It’s the kind of stuff that will result in injured workers losing their homes. People lose the ability to repay mortgages when they are thrown back on to social security.”
“If they abolish lump sums for injuries less than 10 percent, I think it falls into the category of mean and petty.”
Mark Lennon of Unions NSW said that the state government is “preparing to abandon workers and make their lives even harder.”
A spokesman for the Minister of Finance said that they are “committed to improving rehabilitation outcomes, better rates of return to work and better management of the scheme.”