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Important changes to WorkCover legislation

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The Accident Compensation Act 1985 was subject to amendment in late 2009.  A number of these amendments take effect from 5 April 2010 with further amendments to take effect from 1 July 2010.

Changes taking effect from 5 April 2010 that employers should be aware of include:

• An increase in weekly payments from 75% to 80% of pre-injury average weekly earnings after workers have received compensation for longer than 13 weeks.  Note that this will not change employee entitlements to accident make-up pay where relevant.

• A new right for employers to request that their WorkCover insurer provide a written statement of reasons explaining why certain claims were accepted or rejected.

• Provisions for electronic claim lodgement.

• An amendment to provisions relating to employee stress claims to make it clear that an employee may not receive compensation where they sustain a mental injury as a result of a management action.  The term ‘management action’ also replaces previous reference to particular specific disciplinary actions to extend the exclusion to other reasonable actions taken by an employer, including changes in rosters etc.

Further changes to take effect from 1 July 2010 include:

• Enhanced protections against discrimination on the basis of an employee making a WorkCover claim, including increased penalties.

• Introduction of a staged approach to consequences for workers who do not comply with return to work obligations, but increased penalties for employers who do not comply.

• Requirements for labour hire employers and host employers to work together on worker return to work plans.

• Access to review processes for employers that dispute their WorkCover premium calculations.

It is important that employers take steps to update their processes for implementing return to work plans, particularly in the case of labour hire employers.

If you would like further information please contact one of our Workplace Relations lawyers.

Author:  Katie Sweatman