Following the passing of the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 and the subsequent introduction of the Workers Compensation Amendment Regulation 2018, there will be a number of changes that will apply to workers compensation insurance, as at 01 January 2019.
Below is a summary of key changes and how each amendment affects employers and employees. The changes to the regulations and the legislative amendments were published on 14 December 2018, and more information on these can be found on the Workers Compensation Commission, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority and the Workers Compensation Independent Review Office websites.
Dispute resolution is an important process for resolving disputes in respect of a claim or any aspect of a claim, or discontinuing or reducing the weekly payment to a worker. Prior to the introduction of these changes, the dispute resolutions process offered a number of 'streams' to workers, depending on the nature of their dispute. Under the changes, this process will be changed and the Workers Compensation Committee will be provided with the power to determine all disputes, including those relevant to work capacity decisions, which were previously determined by the Workers Compensation Independent Review Office (WIRO) and the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA).
The new regulations also detail what must be provided under the revised dispute resolution with regards to dispute notices, as well as the decision review process. The Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) will provide guidance in relation to any changes to the process of initiating proceedings, as well as any other relevant rules.
Commutation (the replacement of ongoing payments with a single settlement) will not include medical benefits in the case of a worker who has suffered a catastrophic injury. In this regard, SIRA is required to be satisfied and certify that the worker has not suffered a catastrophic injury.
The calculation of pre injury average weekly earnings is a critical process for ensuring that workers receive accurate payments. The current process, considered by many to be overly-complex, will cease. Instead a simplified determination of pre injury average weekly earnings will be introduced. This new calculation will use the weekly average of the gross pre injury earnings received, based on the worker's earnings in the 52 weeks leading up to the date of their injury.
Additionally, workers and employers will now be able to enter into an agreement regarding the worker's pre injury average weekly earnings, subject to verification and acceptance by the insurer. These agreements are designed to make the process of calculating and agreeing pre injury average weekly earnings as simple, easy and transparent as possible, allowing all parties to focus on the return to work process of the injured worker.
SIRA has drafted a range of proposed options for how workers and employers will enter into an agreement in regards to pre injury average weekly earnings, however these changes have not come into effect as yet. Guidelines from SIRA and revised regulations are in development through consultation with the pre injury average weekly earningsworking group.
The new changes include providing the Workers Compensation Commission with the power to determine lump sum awards for workers who suffer a permanent impairment, without requiring an assessment by an approved medical specialist. If all parties to the claim agree, then the Workers Compensation Commission can make an award consistent with their agreement.
The legislative changes will commence on 01 January 2019 and notification of all declined claims will be subject to the revised liability dispute and review notice. The revised dispute resolution process in respect of a claim, or any aspect of a claim, will also take effect then, however it is anticipated that the majority of changes to the revised pre injury average weekly earnings process will still be in development at this point.
Catholic Church Insurance Limited (CCI), ABN 76 000 005 210, AFSL No. 235415. Important Notice: The information herein is intended to provide a general update only to clients of CCI. It does not take into account your individual circumstances and therefore it does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as personal advice. You must always seek professional advice tailored to your own circumstances before taking any action.
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