In coming weeks the NSW government will be reviewing the whole
system of workers' compensation and payouts to injured
The aim is to prevent a deepening deficit in the WorkCover
scheme. It's already at $4 billion, and Premier Barry
O'Farrell said that in the last six months it had grown by $9
million a day.
The Premier said there was no proposal to cut benefits to
injured workers, but he said the government was going to have to
look at all aspects of the scheme. He said premiums for
employers' insurance were twice that of other states and the
gap was growing.
Mr O'Farrell said the government will announce details of
its overhaul of WorkCover within a month.
The government will be looking at ways of making workplaces
safer to prevent injuries. Despite improvements in safety programs,
there are still a tragic number of accidents in the workplace.
During 2009-2010, 216 Australians died from injuries sustained
at work. A total of 640,700 Australians reported a work related
illness or injury. It's estimated that 2,000 Australians die
each year from a work-related illness.
The total cost of workplace illness and injury for the 2008-2009
financial year was $60.6 billion – 4.8 per cent of
The Bureau of Statistics found just over half of those injured
– 56 per cent – were men. It's hardly
surprising most injuries were among manual labourers, machine
operators and drivers. But it is surprising that a large number
worked in community and personal services, accommodation and food
services, arts and entertainment and transport.
According to Safe Work Australia there were 134,800 serious
workers' compensation claims in Australia in 2007-08. Despite
having a lower injury rate than men, women spent more time off work
due to serious claims. The median time lost from work was 4.8 weeks
for women and 3.6 weeks for men.
At the same time the average payment for serious claims
increased from $5,500 in 2003-04 to $6,900 in 2007-08.
But don't think everyone who is injured at work lodges a
claim for workers' comp. The Bureau of Statistics said only one
in five work related injuries end in compensation claims.
If you have been injured at work and haven't yet received
any help it would be worth contacting a lawyer specialising in
workers' compensation so you are aware of what help and
benefits may be available.
It would be better to do this soon, before the government makes
changes to the scheme as tightening of the regulations and benefits
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Jenni Priestley, partner and Leah Hewish, associate at Clyde & Co’s Australia office report on a recent decision of the High Court of Australia.
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