On 1 October 2015, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) commenced a new process for dealing with appeals against review decisions of the Workers’ Compensation Regulator (Regulator). The changes are significant and affect not only the way in which appeals are conducted, but also the steps leading up to any hearing.
There are a number of key steps that must be undertaken once a notice of appeal has been filed in the QIRC. The steps now require parties to turn their minds to the key areas of dispute in any appeal and streamline the disclosure process.
Process once a notice of appeal is filed
Once a notice of appeal is filed, a directions order will be issued to the parties within one to two days. A directions order will require each party to:
- disclose documents;
- file and serve a statement of facts and contentions; and
- file and serve a list of the names of all witnesses to be called at the hearing.
Within one week of completion of directions, matters will be listed for a callover. The callover generally requires parties’ representatives to attend the QIRC to provide an update as to the status of a matter or seek further directions if required.
Statement of facts and contentions
The QIRC website has a detailed guide on what should be included in a statement of facts and contentions. Briefly, a statement must include:
- the key facts upon which a party relies; and
- the contentions that a party believes should be drawn from those facts.
While the usual practice will be for an appellant to provide a statement first, the QIRC may order the Regulator to provide its statement first. If this occurs, the Regulator will have a further opportunity to refine its statement once it has reviewed the statement of the appellant.
Most importantly, a statement is binding. This means that a party will not be able to put forward an alternate version of any facts or contentions at a later date unless an application to amend a statement is filed within seven days of the callover or any conference (whichever is later).
The structure of a hearing
All evidence at a hearing is to be provided orally, without any reliance on affidavits or witness statements. Generally, however, expert witnesses may give evidence via telephone.
After the calling of witnesses has concluded, parties will be required to make written or oral submissions addressing section 32 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld).
Usually a decision will be reserved and a written copy will be provided at a later date.
As these changes have only recently been made, their effect is yet to be known in full.