Key Points

  • The changes took effect on 1 January 2018.
  • Red tape has lessened, but workers entitlements have increased slightly.

The Background

From 1 January 2018, a number of amendments to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (the Act) came into effect. The government introduced the changes with the intent of reducing red tape associated with the administration of the compensation scheme. Discussed below are some of the key changes.

Extension of weekly payments as retirement approaches

Under section 87, weekly payments no longer expire upon a worker reaching 65 years of age. They now expire, subject to the time limits imposed by section 69B, upon pension age, as defined in the Social Securities Act 1991 (Cth) – this is anywhere between 60 and 67 years of age, subject to sex and date of birth. This change applies to all current claims, whether or not the injury occurred before or after 1 January 2018. See the accompanying comparative table across jurisdictions.

No need for a dependent child to file a referral

A child that was wholly or partially dependent upon a deceased worker is now entitled to lump sum compensation in accordance with section 67, reducing the need for child dependants to file referrals. A dependant child, spouse or partner is also no longer required to present a medical certificate when making a claim for compensation, preventing delays in making a claim due to difficulties obtaining a certificate in relation to a deceased person.

Medical practitioners

Medical practitioners are no longer required to hold accreditation from the WorkCover Board (the Board) to issue workers’ compensation medical certificates, including a certificate pursuant to section 86(1)(c). Positively, those practitioners are now subject to the same penalties as an accredited medical practitioner for false or misleading statements in certificates.

Certificates of incapacity

Certificates of incapacity can now be issued by a medical practitioner without them having to provide reasons for the lengthy period of incapacity for periods of up to 28 days, doubling the previous limit (section 143H). This may reduce costs, but insurers will need to pay more attention to certificates.

WPI assessment

Section 72 now confirms that the assessment of WPI is to be made using the Tasmanian Guidelines, as released by the Board pursuant to the newly detailed section 71A of the Act, that are in effect on the day of assessment.

Also, if the method of assessing WPI prescribed by the Act ceases to be in effect, WPI assessments under the previous method still remain valid, until a new assessment is undertaken in accordance with the newly prescribed method.

Lessening of red tape for insurers and employers

An employer no longer needs to display a summary of the Act at their workplace, nor a statement setting out the details of their licensed workers’ compensation insurer. Previously there was a fine for failure to do so (section 152).

An insurer also no longer needs to provide the Board with details of the industry rates on which the insurer intends to rely in calculating its insurance premiums for the following year, as section 102A used to require.

Under section 108, a licence or permit to insure now does not expire until it is revoked or surrendered. Previously there was a requirement for renewal each 3 years.

Self insurers are no longer required to forward a claim for compensation to the Board within 5 working days. Instead they must provide the Board with details of new claims each month.

Employers are no longer required to serve written notice regarding a worker’s right to make a claim for compensation pursuant to section 33A. However, the employer must still inform the worker of their right to make a claim in the prescribed format. The effect of this change is therefore likely to be minimal. And we would counsel all insurers to request all employers to continue to provide notice in writing.

Rehabilitation

An employer’s or insurer’s injury management program no longer needs to be reviewed every 12 months. The employer must comply with the timeframes as set out in that program, rather than timeframes set by the Act, when it comes to developing individual injury management plans.

A return to work coordinator must be appointed by an employer who employs more than 100 workers, whereas previously the threshold was 50 workers.

Causation in relation to presumed disease

Schedule 4, which previously listed diseases for which causation is presumed in favour of the worker, has been removed and the Board now publishes the list in the Gazette.