Category Archives: workers’ compensation amendments

Prescribed Amounts and other Workers’ Compensation payments for 2014/2015

WorkCover WA releases variations in Prescribed Amounts and other Workers’ Compensation payments for 2014/2015

WorkCover WA today announced the new limits payable under the Act.

Key elements of the revised Prescribed Amounts are:

  • Maximum payment: $212,980.00 (up from $206,742)
  • Medical and hospital expenses: $63,894.00 (up from $62,023)
  • Vocational rehabilitation expenses: $14,909.00 (up from $14,472)
  • Weekly payments: $2,594.20 (up from $2,448.50)

These increases are effective from 1st July, 2014.

Injured employees who are currently in receipt of the maximum weekly compensation of $2,448.50 may be entitled to an increase. You should seek advice from your insurer before making any changes to the approved weekly compensation rate.

The Recommended Prescribed Amount and other Workers’ Compensation Payments for 2014-2015 are available here from the WorkCover WA website.

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Proposed Changes to WA’s Workers’ Compensation Legislation

In Western Australia, the current Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (the Act) has been amended a number of times and consequently is difficult to understand and apply. WorkCover WA recently published a discussion paper outlining proposals to re-draft the Act. The discussion paper was designed as the basis for consultation with a range of stakeholders in the WA workers’ compensation system, including insurers, rehabilitation providers, lawyers and industry groups.

As an employer advocate, Aurenda made a submission and our perspective on the Review focussed on changes that will particularly impact on the ability of employers to effectively manage their injured employees and the negative impact on claims costs, future premiums and the effective operation of their business.

The scope of the Review is wide and varied, with more than 160 recommendations to ‘improve’ the WA workers’ compensation system.

Some salient points we focussed on are:

  • The Act will not be amended, rather re written with a focus on “plain speech”. We fully support this recommendation.
  • Currently, an injured employee who is in receipt of weekly compensation and commences maternity leave continues to receive their full weekly compensation payments. We propose that weekly compensation should be suspended for the period of the applicable maternity leave period. This is an aspect of the current legislation that clearly contradicts the intent of the legislation, since the injured employee is not able to participate in the return to work process and therefore should not be entitled to compensation during that period. This was not contained within the recommendations – we have asked that this be addressed.
  • Failure to attend or participate in medical reviews arranged under s64 and s65 still requires focus. The Review proposes a consolidation of the sections but does not address any consequence for the non-attendance or participation in the medical reviews. These medical reviews are crucial to an employer in progressing their injury management obligations as well as the general management of the employee’s injury. We recommended an immediate suspension of weekly compensation where there is failure to attend or participate in a medical review that is scheduled under these sections of the Act.
  • The proposal to remove s92(f) as a mechanism to settle and resolve claims is not an option we support. It is crucial to allow both the employee and employer an opportunity to resolve the dispute over entitlement. This provides closure and certainty for the injured employee. It also allows the insurer to close the claim which provides certainty to the employer of impact on their insurance policy.
  • Removal of the common law election period under s93M is proposed. This is not supported as the election provides an understanding of the injured employees’ intentions in respect of their future entitlements (a statutory claim or a common law claim) and this invariably motivates their compliance and return to work motivation. The added benefit of an election is knowing the likely cost exposure of the claim which assists employers with premium negotiations.
  • It is proposed the twelve month time limit of notice of injury be removed (s178). We have not supported that change as the notification allows an employer to manage the injured employee in the workplace to ensure no further injury or aggravation, it also ensures that any changes to the system of work can occur or document the circumstances in the event a claim is made in the future and documentation is required by the insurer. Furthermore, if an employee believes they have a workplace injury why would they not want to report it to their employer within a reasonable timeframe and 12 months is not an onerous timeframe.
  • The proposal to allow people other than doctors to issue medical certificates is not a concept we support. The doctors (treating or second opinion) are key to providing an objective and evidence-based approach to determining an injured employee’s need for treatment and/or incapacity to work. Allowing other allied health providers the authority would diminish the integrity of the system as well as possibly expose the system to rort.
  • The recommendation to allow payment of small claims on a Without Admission of Liability basis to a cap of $750 is a good initiative but clarity will be required on the type of injuries and that it relates to medical expenses claims only.
  • Clarification and simplifying the rate of pay calculation is a welcome initiative. It is likely, however, that will mean there will be no step down rate after 13 weeks incapacity and the step down provides an incentive to motivate a return to work. We recommended an across the board reduction of 15% after 13 weeks incapacity. This is consistent with the approach taken in other jurisdictions.
  • It is proposed an injured employee can receive their permanent impairment lump sum entitlement and leave their claim open to receive the balance of their entitlements. This will increase the costs to the system and contribute to the longevity of claims.   We have opposed this recommendation.
  • Under s69 a Form 6 is required to be submitted if an injured employee is out of the State more than three months. The Review recommends weekly compensation to be suspended until the required form is submitted. We supported this amendment but further clarity on the frequency of the submission of the form is required as well as whether weekly compensation is backdated once there is compliance with the necessary forms evidencing an ongoing incapacity.
  • The proposed revisions of s84AA is pleasing as it addresses some of the ambiguity for an employer when they are terminating employment contracts which, invariably, are not related to the injury or claim process.

The process of ‘reviewing the Review’, amending recommendations, seeking further feedback from stakeholders and drafting a completely new version of the Workers’ Compensation Act will take a great deal of time and commitment from WorkCover and the Government. We are pleased to represent employers’ interests in this significant project.

 

Footnote: Chris White, WorkCover CEO, stated that WorkCover received more than 70 submissions to the Review and that they are impressed with the constructive feedback that has been provided.

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WorkCover WA releases Workers’ Compensation Premium Rates for 2013-2014

WorkCover WA has released the recommended workers’ compensation premium rates for 2013-2014. Although the average rate across the entire workers’ compensation scheme has decreased by 1.36%, this decrease is not applied uniformly across all 480 premium rating classificatons and decreases or increases in specific gazetted premium rates will vary from industry-to-industry.

The important point for employers to understand is that unless their claims history is better than that of their industry peers, they are unlikely to see any significant reductions in their next workers’ compensation premium renewal and in fact may be subject to increases in premium depending on claims performance.

For employers with 30 June renewals, now is the time to act! If you have any concerns about the potential impact of current claims costs on your premium renewal, contact us to discss what opportunities exist to reduce claims costs in the small windows that remains.

Media Statement – 9 April 2013
WorkCover WA announces Recommended Premium Rates for 2013/14

The Chairman of the WorkCover WA Board, Mr Greg Joyce, today announced the 2013/14 recommended premium rates for compulsory workers’ compensation insurance in Western Australia.

Mr Joyce said that the average recommended premium rate would fall slightly to 1.668 per cent of total wages for 2013/14, down from 1.691 per cent of total wages for 2012/13.

The recommended premium rates are based on independent advice by the workers’ compensation scheme actuary, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and take into account the latest available data on claims experience provided by insurers, as well as broader economic factors such as movements in interest rates and wages.

Mr Joyce said the decrease in 2013/14 is largely due to continued wages growth in Western Australia. However, the positive impact of wages growth is offset by other factors, including increases in claim numbers and associated costs, and reductions in real rates of return for approved insurers.

The decrease is not applied uniformly across all 480 premium rating classifications.

The Recommended Premium Rates for 2013-2014 are available here from the WorkCover WA website.

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Workers’ Compensation Payment Amendments for 2012

The annual review of workers’ compensation rates, fees and payments in Western Australia have been published by WorkCover WA. Variations to the Prescribed Amount come into effect on 1 July 2012.

Some of the notable changes include:

The capped amount for weekly earnings has increased from $2,156.60 to $2,351.80 ($112,293.60)

The maximum payment of the prescribed amount (100%) has increased from $190,701 to $198,365.

The amount allocated for capped Common Law has increased from $400,475 to $416,569.

What does this mean for you? If you have workers who are currently on the ‘capped amount’ for weekly earnings, their rates of pay should be reviewed to ensure you are paying them their correct entitlement after 1 July. If in doubt, check with your insurer.

Increases to other entitlements will have an impact on claims costs as they flow through the claims management process, making it more important than ever to ensure that you are managing each and every claim as effectively as possible to mitigate your cost exposures.

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New workers’ compensation laws proclaimed – common law insurance

Following up from Aurenda‘s blog last year (Unintended Consequences of WA’s WC Amendments) the Governor in Executive Council proclaimed 1 August 2012 for the commencement of the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Act 2012.

The supporting Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Regulations 2012 are also effective from 1 August 2012.

These legislative changes clarify common law insurance requirements under the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (the Act) as a result of legal uncertainty over the scope of the insurance obligation introduced on 1 October 2011 by the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Act 2011.

The legislative changes:

  • Clarify the definition of ‘damages’ for insurance purposes.
  • Provide that employers do not require common law insurance under the Act for ‘deemed workers’ – that is, workers of whom the employer would not be the employer but for being deemed an employer under sections 175 or 175AA for compensation purposes.
  • Retrospectively preserve insurance arrangements for employers of deemed workers insured under public liability insurance arrangements by preventing the denial of cover on the basis that the employer was required to be insured under the Act from from 1 October 2011 to 1 August 2012.
  • Limit, modify or exclude any requirement to hold insurance in respect of liabilities in prescribed circumstances or out of prescribed events. These are consistent with current employer indemnity arrangements and include:
    • a $50 million insurance limit on common law liabilities arising out of a single event.
    • an insurance exclusion regarding any liability to pay compensation or damages arising out of events such as war, military or usurped power.
    • an insurance exclusion regarding any liability to pay damages in respect of injuries occurring outside of Australia or in a jurisdiction outside of Australia.
    • an insurance exclusion regarding any liability to pay compensation or damages in respect of specified industrial diseases arising from employment in any mine or mining operation.
  • Preserve terms, conditions and exclusions in employer indemnity policies to the extent these comply with the corrective amendments in the Amendment Act and Regulations.

For further information on the legislative changes please contact Mr Kevin Gillingham, Manager Policy and Legislative Services at WorkCover WA, on 9388 5640.

Source of this article is Workcover WA

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Amendment bill and new policy wording to clarify WA legislation

In a blog post on the 18th November, Aurenda commented on the unintended consequences of workers’ compensation amendments and said we would keep you updated.

Below is an update posted by GIO

“Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (the Act) implemented in October 2011 inadvertently created legal uncertainty as to an employer’s common law insurance obligation for people who are deemed their workers in some circumstances.

Since the matter was first raised WorkCover WA has been actively working towards a sustainable solution with key stakeholders, including GIO.     

As a result of these discussions, both an interim and long-term solution is required.

An interim solution has already been implemented by way of changes to the standard employer indemnity policy. The revised policy wording incorporates feedback from insurers, including GIO, through the Insurance Council of Australia.  

The long term solution will be implemented by way of an amendment bill. This bill will be brought to Parliament early in 2012 and will clarify the workers’ compensation common law insurance obligations of employers and insurers in Western Australia.

In order to restore certainty the proposed amendments will:

  • Make clear that the requirement to insure a worker for common law damages does not include a person who is the employer’s worker only because of section 175 or section 175AA of the Act (deemed employers under the Act).
  • Preserve the indemnity in public liability policies for deemed employers from 1 October 2011 to ensure those policies respond to common law actions against deemed employers.
  • Enable regulations to set a specified or minimum limit of indemnity for common law liabilities arising from a single event, and other standard conditions and exclusions.

To avoid any doubt about the legal status of insurance arrangements, the amendments will apply retrospectively from 1 October 2011.”

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