Injuries in the workplace can have devastating consequences for workers, such as long-term suffering or a loss of future income. As employers benefit from the labour of their workers, it remains only fair that they should also bear the costs of any work-related injuries. The workers compensation scheme aims to provide assistance to these injured workers, however, the ever-changing laws surrounding workers compensation may be difficult for workers to keep up with.
If you have been injured at work, read on to find out more about the new changes to the workers compensation scheme.
What is workers compensation?
Workers compensation provides compensation to workers who have suffered injury, illness or a reduced work capacity during as a result of the course of their employment. The workers compensation scheme aims to provide injured workers with assistance during their recovery, and to support a safe and appropriate return to work. In August 2015, the NSW Government announced that its workers compensation scheme would be reformed.
How do these changes affect workers?
New categories of injured workers
Injured workers with more than 30% whole person impairment (WPI) will no longer be defined as ‘seriously injured workers’. Instead, injured workers with greater than 20% WPI are categorised as ‘high needs’ and workers with greater than 30% WPI are categorised as ‘highest needs’. These new categories will affect the benefits each injured worker receives.
If appropriate based on the date of the injury, age at the time of the accident and category of the injured worker, injured workers may now be entitled to receive weekly benefits for 12 months after they reach retirement age. Injured workers categorised as ‘high needs’ are entitled to weekly benefits after the first 130 weeks, and are no longer required to work for at least 15 hours per week to receive these weekly benefits.
Injured workers that have been assessed as 10% whole person impairment or less (using the relevant assessment guidelines, may be paid for medical expenses two years after the date of their workers compensation claim or from when their weekly benefit entitlement stops. Injured workers with 11% WPI to 20% WPI will be paid for their medical expenses five years after the date of their workers compensation claim or from when their weekly benefits stop. For injured workers categorised as ‘high needs’ or ‘highest needs’, these time limits do not apply.
Lump sum compensation
Lump sum compensation payments have increased if the injury occurred after 5 August 2015. If an injured worker has died from a workplace incident after 5 August 2015, the lump sum payable on their death has increased from $528,000 up to $750,000. The funeral expenses have also increased from $9,000 up to $15,000. Lump sum compensation for injuries received on or after 5 August 2015, the compensation payable for permanent impairment has increased to a maximum of $577,050 for workers with a permanent impairment of 75 percent or more and the compensation payable for each percentage of permanent impairment of more than 10 percent has increased.
New Employment Assistance Benefit
Injured workers who are returning to work with a new employer may be eligible to receive up to a $1000 new employment assistance benefit. This is intended to help injured workers with expenses such as child care, clothes, transport and tools.
Education or Training Assistance Benefit
Injured workers classified as ‘high needs’ or ‘highest needs’ who have been receiving benefits for 78 weeks or longer are eligible for up to an $8000 education or training assistance benefit. This is to help workers to improve their readiness for work and can be spent on a training or education course with a registered training organisation or a registered higher education provider.
No top-up claims
Due to a decision made by the NSW Court of Appeal in Cram Fluid Power Pty Ltd v Green, workers who have been seriously injured can no longer top up their initial lump sum payments if their condition deteriorates. This can significantly disadvantage workers as many conditions may take years to develop and worsen. It is, therefore, important to ensure that as injured workers only have one chance at making a lump sum claim, any claims made accurately depict the nature of their medical condition.