WCC e-Bulletin No 50 - October 2012
Increase in Commission lodgements and resulting delays
Since the announcement of amendments to the Workers Compensation legislation in late June 2012, the Commission has experienced a large increase in the volume of lodgements. Prior to the legislative amendments the Commission received a long term average of approximately 780 applications per month. However, since late June 2012, the commission has received more than 5,000 applications.
Teleconference listing times prior to the legislative changes were at approximately 8 weeks. At present, the listing time for teleconferences are now well into 2013.
We thank you for your patience while we manage the increase in workload.
Post MAC teleconferences
As a result of the large increase in workload, the Commission is now listing post – Medical Assessment Certificate (MAC) teleconferences well into 2013. Prior to the post-MAC teleconference, parties are encouraged to liaise with each other, with a view to reaching agreement on section 67 compensation. This will allow the Commission to enter Consent Orders, including the finalisation of compensation entitlements and costs orders, in as timely a manner as possible. It will also free up additional listing times for first instance teleconferences.
To facilitate the issuing of consent orders, parties may simply email the Registry (email@example.com) the agreed values for s66 and s67 compensation. The Commission will then issue orders (Certificate of Determination – Consent Orders) for payment of the lump sum compensation and the usual costs order (as agreed or assessed).
Summary of Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2012
For your information, a summary of the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 is below.
Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2012
In June the Government introduced changes to the Workers Compensation scheme in NSW. There are significant changes to benefits designed to give more assistance to return to work and provide better financial support for more seriously injured workers.
The Act makes a number of significant amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (the 1987 Act) and the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 (the 1998 Act) including:
Changes to the calculation of weekly benefits, include: the introduction of step-downs during three entitlement periods (weeks 1–13, weeks 14–130, and after week 130), with weekly payments after week 130 only available to totally incapacitated workers or partially incapacitated workers who have returned to work for at least 15 hours per week seriously injured workers will receive increased weekly benefits no weekly compensation is payable after five years (with an exception for injured workers with more than 20 per cent whole person impairment) work capacity testing will be introduced for the first time similar to the Victorian model insurers will be required to assess the workers capacity for employment and his or her ability to earn work capacity decisions will be binding subject to the an internal review by the insurer and a merit review by the WorkCover Authority.
WorkCover Independent Review Officer
A new office of the WorkCover Independent Review Officer (WIRO) has been established.
The WIRO may review the insurers’ procedures in making work capacity decisions, but not the merits of the decision. A review cannot proceed until the dispute has been subject to an internal insurer review and a merit review by the Authority. The WIRO may make recommendations that are binding on insurers and WorkCover.
He may also investigate complaints regarding insurers and make non-binding recommendations.
The Workers Compensation Commission does not have jurisdiction to determine disputes about work capacity decisions.
Medical and Hospital expenses
Payment of an injured worker’s expenses for medical, hospital and rehabilitation treatment and services will be limited to treatment and services provided within 12 months after a claim for compensation is first made or within 12 months after weekly payments cease (with an exception for workers with more than 30 per cent whole person impairment).
Lump Sum compensation
Changes to lump sum compensation for permanent impairment include:
No compensation will be payable for an injury that is a disease (or the aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation or deterioration of a disease) contracted in the course of employment unless the worker’s employment was the main contributing factor.
No compensation will be payable for journey claims, except for work, workers compensation or training related journeys.
The Act also amends the current costs provisions, prohibiting the making of any costs order in Commission proceedings.
On 26 September 2012, the Minister announced that a new Independent Legal Assistance and Review Service (ILARS) would be established in the office of the WIRO. This service will deal with applications for funding for injured workers to seek resolution of their dispute in the Commission. The WIRO has indicated an intention to ensure that funding is made available for approved legal service providers at an early stage of the process to enable supporting material to be obtained.
The Minister’s announcement included confirmation that transitional arrangements would allow for any matters registered in the Commission by 31 December 2012 to be finalised in accordance with the old costs provisions.
The Bill received assent on 27 June 2012.
Following an amendment, the amending Act 2012 will not apply to police officers, paramedics or fire-fighters.
Judge G Keating
President Workers Compensation Commission
Due to the large volume of applications registered over the past couple of months, the Commission is now listing teleconferences well into 2013. As is our usual practice, we are planning to have a brief shut-down over the Christmas/New Year period (Thursday, 20 December 2012 to Tuesday, 8 January 2013 inclusive) where no teleconferences will be listed. A revised timetable relating to applications lodged during this period will be issued towards the end of November.
Vale Jennifer David
The Commission recently received the sad news that one of our Mediators (and former Arbitrator), Jennifer David, passed away on 9 October 2012, some days after having suffered a sudden stroke.
Jennifer has been a part of the Commission since its inception. She was a skilled dispute resolution practitioner and will be remembered fondly by many members, practitioners and staff. She will be sadly missed.
Judge Greg Keating