On 1 November 2017, the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced into the Legislative Assembly.
After the Legislative Council’s second reading of the Bill on 17 May 2018, the Bill has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament and is awaiting Royal Assent.
The Bill amends the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA), in relation to the entitlements for dependants of workers who die in work related accidents.
The Bill provides a method for apportioning the lump sum to be paid between dependants, increases the weekly child’s allowance for the care and maintenance of each child dependent on the deceased worker and removes the definition of ‘de facto’. These are amendments anticipated to have a significant effect on the entitlements to dependants of a worker, who dies as a result of a work related accident.
The Act currently provides lump sum entitlements for dependants of workers who die in work related accidents, however, the amounts are low in comparison with other Australian workers’ compensation jurisdictions. For example, in Victoria, the lump sum payment is currently set at $598,360 and in New South Wales, the current lump sum payment is $791,850. The current notional residual entitlement amount in Western Australia is $308,339.
The proposed lump sum entitlement – to replace the current notional residual entitlement – equates to 250% of the prescribed amount, as calculated at the date of the worker’s death.
The amendment to the initial child’s allowance – to be set at $133 per week, indexed each financial year – is also a significant increase from the current entitlement of $58.90 per week. This increase in the child’s allowance is retrospective, allowing the increase in the child’s allowance to apply in circumstances where a worker has died leaving a dependent child or children prior to the enactment of the Bill.
In assessing ‘dependants’ under the Act, currently, the Act provides that a ‘de facto’ partner must have been living with the worker for at least two years immediately prior to the worker’s death, in order to qualify for compensation. The removal of the definition of ‘de facto’ ensures that de facto partners are now equal to married spouses, for the purposes of assessing compensation as a dependant.
In the second reading of the Bill, it was noted that each year, there are ‘20 traumatic work related fatalities in Western Australia’. By introducing this Bill, it is hoped that ‘dependent family members of workers killed on the job receive fair and reasonable compensation, which is prioritised and expedited’.