Posts for November 2017

Workers Compensation delays need to be addressed

Monday, November 06, 2017 12:30pm


The time taken to resolve workers compensation disputes has blown out in recent times.

Some of these disputes revolve around injured workers who have had their weekly payments cut off but believe they should be reinstated because they are still unable to work and require ongoing financial and medical support. 

One of the challenges is that radical new concepts have been introduced in the workers compensation area and the wording of the provisions of the law is very difficult to understand – so much so that there are about nine separate matters making their way to the Supreme Court for guidance as to what a number of provisions of the current law actually mean.

As an indication of the difficulty, in a number of these cases, Judges of the South Australian Employment Tribunal have reached differing and conflicting conclusions. 

Meanwhile, ReturnToWorkSA, which determines the bulk of the claims in this State, has often steadfastly refused to negotiate a compromise with injured workers once it has taken a position. This sometimes means that the Corporation is spending more on disputed proceedings than the amount in dispute, and is forcing workers to either accept its position (in some cases where a Full Bench of the Tribunal has said its position is wrong) or wait until that issue is resolved by the Supreme Court.

The scheme forces most injured workers to be cut off from weekly payments after two years, but many injured workers are disputing this arrangement and are seeking further recompense. It is a contentious issue because whether you get weekly payments beyond two years is not based upon whether you can work or not but, rather, on the percentage of impairment that you have. That assessment is undertaken by one doctor in a complex new regime which the Judges of the Tribunal have found very difficult to apply. 

It is an odd position that someone can be totally and permanently incapacitated for all work and yet have weekly payments cut after two years. It is also unfair to blue collar workers where a lesser impairment can destroy their capacity to work. 

An added problem is that the Tribunal’s President has retired and has not been replaced. With an increasing workload the Tribunal has a Judge less than previously and no appointed permanent President. 

Minister for Industrial Relations John Rau has referred in Parliament to the desirability of using conciliation to resolve disputes. He may wish to emphasise this approach to ReturnToWorkSA Until the issues with the ReturnToWork Scheme are addressed, concerns and delays will continue.


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