If passed by the Queensland Parliament, the Workers' Compensation Amendment Bill 2015 (Qld) (Bill) will remove the previous Liberal National Party Government's limitations on an injured worker's entitlement to commence a common law damages claim.
The Bill will overturn the 2013 amendments to the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) (Act) by:
- removing the current 5% degree of permanent impairment (DPI) required before a worker is entitled to commence a common law damages claim
- allowing workers who were injured between 15 October 2013 and 31 January 2015, and who have a DPI of less than 5%, to apply for additional compensation if they have not accepted a lump sum
- removing an employer's right to apply to the Workers' Compensation Regulator (Regulator) for a summary of a prospective worker's claims history.
The 5% DPI threshold will continue to apply to claims for injuries after 15 October 2013 and before 31 January 2015 (the date of the last Queensland election).
The Queensland Government claims the Bill is aimed at benefitting workers. For example, under the Act, if a worker suffers a work related injury assessed at less than 5% DPI they are prohibited from bringing a common law damages claim for the injury, even if the injury means the worker can no longer work in their job. The Bill will remove that prohibition.
The Bill will also remove an employer's right to apply to the Regulator for a summary of a prospective worker's claims history. This will not affect the entitlement to ask a prospective worker to disclose any pre-existing injury or medical condition. If a worker makes a false or misleading disclosure, they may not be entitled to workers' compensation if the pre-existing injury or condition is aggravated at work.
The Queensland Government is currently consulting with employer and employee representatives over the final form and timing of the Bill. However, if the Bill is passed in its current form, employers should be aware of the potential for workers to have an expanded entitlement to common law damages for workplace injuries, with the potential increase in premiums.
As always, employers need to manage workers with work related injuries carefully, encouraging proactive return to work programs. Employers also need to consider work based programs to prevent work related injuries and illness and encourage good and effective health and wellbeing practices.