The Government, in 2014, introduced reforms which seek to expand access for national employers to compensation and work health and safety coverage under the Comcare Scheme.

As things stand under the current laws only former Commonwealth authorities and companies in competition with those authorities are able to self-insure under the Comcare scheme.  There is also no generally available option for national coverage under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act).

The Bill tabled to give effect to the Government’s planned reforms is the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (the SRC Amendment Bill) which will allow any company operating in two or more states or territories the opportunity to apply to self-insure under  the Comcare scheme.

The Bill has already passed the House of Representatives and is currently in front of the Senate. 

Andrew Klein, National Comcare Specialist at Russell Kennedy Lawyers, told the press that the implications for national business if the Bill passes will be far reaching.

Businesses that employ staff across a number of states or territories are currently required to comply with up to six different workers compensation and work health and safety (WHS) regulatory regimes. It’s a complicated, red-tape heavy system.

Klein believes, “the passing of the SRC Amendment Bill will allow businesses that operate in more than one of the country’s states or territories to significantly streamline their workers compensation and WHS systems by self-insuring under the Comcare scheme.

It’s the biggest shake up workplace relations law to date, for those employers who opt in, the primary advantage will be that they will be operating under one nationally consistent workers compensation and WHS regime governed by a single national regulator.”

Klein consequently expects there to be strong interest in, and take up of, self-insurance under the Comcare scheme from a number of Australia’s largest companies. 

The Government seems to agree with Klein, stating in an Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill that: "it has been assumed that one in five national employers may move to the Comcare scheme for coverage of workers' compensation and WHS".

Klein however cautions that self-insurance under the Comcare scheme will not be right for all multi state and territory employees, saying: “whether moving to the Comcare scheme will provide significant advantages to an employer will depend very much on the nature of the business it is involved in and the demographics of its workforce and the kind of claims it is generally required to deal with.  There are also likely to be significant start-up costs associated with the transition.”

Employers are consequently encouraged to seek advice in the first instance as to whether the Comcare scheme may be the right fit for their company.  If it appears that transitioning to self-insurance under the scheme may have benefits for an organisation a feasibility study can be conducted, generally relatively quickly and inexpensively, to confirm that this is the case.   

For further information on the implications for businesses Andrew Klein has recorded a recent seminar on the topic Amendment Bill - Is Comcare attractive now? The three short videos can be watched here.

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