Tag Archives: Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981

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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Filed under Aurenda, Insurance premiums, Workers Compensation, workers' compensation amendments

Unintended Consequences of WA’s WC Amendments

The complex process of amending legislation and the potential pitfalls of doing so have become apparent from some unintended consequences of the recent changes to Workers’ Compensation in WA.

One of the gaps identified during WorkCover’s 2009 review of the legislation was that some seriously injured workers were not able to access their rightful entitlement to common law. Although measures were in place to protect workers whose employers did not carry compulsory Workers’ Compensation insurance, these measures did not extend to common law provision.

The amendments enacted on 1 October 2011 have introduced measures to correct this anomaly. With the introduction of a common law safety net under amended section 160 of the WA Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act, employers are now obliged to obtain insurance against potential common law liability for their workers.

Unfortunately, by using the word ‘worker’ instead of the word ’employee’ there are some unintended consequences. The extended definition of ‘worker’ includes contractors, and therefore, the amendment to the Act stipulates that a Principal’s Common Law policy must respond to a Contractor’s workers.

Apart from the complication of calculating the value of such a policy extension and the cost to employers to purchase it – no such insurance product currently exists!

Technically, every employer that uses contractors is now in breach of the WA Act, and susceptible to a $5,000 penalty.

In practical terms, the situation is academic as workers cannot ‘double-dip’ within the WC system and their own employer’s policy would be the first to respond, with the amendments protecting the injured employee’s right to common law if their employer did not carry compulsory WC insurance.

Insurers are now looking at introducing such a product, in the event that parliament doesn’t see the need to correct this oversight. Aurenda will keep you updated!

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Counting the Cost

Extensions to Lodgement Timeframes for WA Workers’ Compensation Claims

One of the amendments to the Western Australian Workers’ Compensation legislation that hasn’t received much publicity is the extension to the amount of time that an employer has to lodge a claim with their insurer.

Effective 1 October 2011, employers will have five (5) working days to lodge an injured worker’s completed Claim Form on their insurer. The insurer’s timeframe for making a decision on the claim does not change – they still have 14 days to assess it – and therefore workers may have to wait up to 19 days for their first response from the insurer.

Currently, employers must submit workers’ compensation claims to their insurer within three working days of receiving the completed Claim Form from the injured worker.  For employers who fail to do so, the possibility has existed for the insurer to refuse to cover the initial costs of the claim; in practice, however, this has not occurred.

A significant change for both workers and employers is that it is now an offense for employers to delay the lodgement of the claim. If a late lodgement is reported to WorkCover, the employer may be liable for a $1,000 penalty. (Section 57A(2A) of the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Act 2011.)

What is Aurenda’s perspective on this?

Time and time again, research shows that early intervention results in positive outcomes for both employers and workers who are injured at work.  Extending the lodgement time to five working days will lead to delays in the initial injury management response from some employers, negatively impacting on return to work timeframes and claims costs.

We encourage employers to obtain completed paperwork from injured workers and lodge workers’ compensation claims as quickly as possible.  For the vast majority of claims, getting a speedy decision from the insurer on liability and initiating return to work at the earliest possible opportunity is best for everyone.  In instances where there are questions about the validity of the claim, investigations can be instigated immediately while information about the injury circumstances is still fresh in people’s minds.

The upside of a possible $1,000 penalty for failing to lodge a claim within five working days is the increased motivation of employers not to leave Claim Forms sitting on someone’s desk because they’re ‘too busy to get to it’!

To make sure that you’re not counting the cost of a delay in lodging a workers’ compensation claim, here are some tips:

  • Get your injured workers to complete their Claim Form as soon as possible
  • Date-stamp the Claim Form when you receive it, in case it has been sitting on the worker’s kitchen bench for a few days after they signed it
  • Complete the Employer’s Report of Injury right away, and forward all claims paperwork to your insurer immediately
  • Even if you haven’t received the Claim Form, get in touch with your employee to initiate the injury management process as soon as possible after you become aware that they’ve suffered a workplace injury

http://www.workcover.wa.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/43CF563E-43C9-483C-A1CC-D691A2F9139E/0/Info_Sheet__Amendment_Bill_2011_Timeframes.pdf

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WA Workers’ Compensation amendments to take effect 1 October 2011

Western Australia’s Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act (“the Act”) has been amended on a piecemeal basis many times since its introduction in 1981. This has resulted in a complex and highly prescriptive statute that is difficult to understand and sometimes frustrating to apply. 

In April 2010, after 12 months of deliberation, the government released WorkCoverWA’s recommendations for an improved structure for the Act, to enhance the readability and consistency of the legislation and to improve the capacity of the legislation to accommodate changing circumstances in the workforce. 

These changes will come into effect on 1 October 2011. 

There are three changes that are of particular relevance at a day-to-day level for Western Australian employers: 

  1. Age-based limits on workers’ compensation entitlements are to be removed so that an injured worker older than 64 will have the same entitlements as any other injured worker.  Currently, anyone over 64 is only entitled to one year of wages.  (This change is not retrospective and will only apply to injuries that occur on or after 1 October.)
  2. The amendments will compel an employer to pay an injured worker their entitlements within 14 days of the insurer approving the claim.  There will be a $2,000 fine for failure to do so.  For employers who pay monthly, this is an important consideration in making sure that your systems will allow for possible ad hoc payments to be made between ‘normal’ payroll runs.
  3. The calculation of the rate of pay for the first 13 weeks of incapacity will be based solely on the injured worker’s earnings in the 12 months previous to the injury. Currently, the wage calculation depends on whether someone is on an Award or not, which is confusing and often delays the calculation of wage entitlement.

To make sure that you stay up-to-date with these and many other changes coming into effect, connect with Aurenda for regular updates.

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Filed under Aurenda, Injury Management, Workers Compensation, Workplace Injury

Section 79 Disclaimer on Employment Applications

Many Western Australian employers do not have the most up-to-date wording of the “Section 79 disclaimer” on their employment applications and pre-employment medical screening questionnaires.

It may seem like only a minor thing to be concerned about, but if you need to rely on this disclaimer in a dispute, you want to make sure that it’s correct!

In fact, running a Google search on ‘Section 79’ found that not one WA employment application in the first 5 pages of search results correctly referenced both the name of the Act and the disclaimer wording, with many applications found online still referring to the legislation as the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act – which changed names in 2005!

We suggest that you double-check all documentation related to your employment application and screening process to ensure that your wording is up-to-date. Our suggested wording for the disclaimer related to disclosure of previous injuries is:

Section 79 of the Western Australian Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 gives an arbitrator discretion to refuse to award compensation which would otherwise be payable where it is proved that the worker has, at the time of seeking or entering employment in respect of which he claims compensation for an injury, wilfully and falsely represented himself as not having previously suffered from the injury.

Make sure that you have the correct name of the legislation (“Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981“) and that your disclaimer refers to ‘injury’, not ‘disability’.

Reference: Western Australia Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981, Part III, Division 8, Section 79

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