What the changes mean for you
Queensland Parliament recently passed the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013. The Act includes a number of changes, some which came intoeffect on 15 October 2013, and others which came into effect on 29 October 2013.
Workers who are injured prior to the introduction of this Act will have their claims dealt with under the legislation in force at the time of their injury.
In WorkCover Queensland’s regular Safety First column, we summarise these changes, and explain what they mean for our customers and our stakeholders.
What are the changes and what do they mean?
These changes are effective from 15 October 2013:
- The introduction of a threshold of greater than 5% degree of permanent impairment (DPI) to access common law damages.
This applies to injuries from 15 October 2013. For injuries that occur over a period of time, the date of injury is considered to be the date of initial health practitioner consultation for the injury.
The method for assessing permanent impairment and calculating statutory lump sum compensation has changed from work related impairment (WRI) to degree of permanent impairment (DPI).
This change applies to claims with a date of injury from 15 October 2013. For injuries sustained prior to 15 October 2013, they will still be assessed using the Table of Injuries and AMA4 and these workers will still receive an offer of lump sum compensation based on their DPI.
For workers injured from 15 October 2013, their injuries will be assessed using the new Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (GEPI) (which references AMA5). Workers will receive an offer of lump sum compensation based on their DPI. Physical injuries are combined to calculate the DPI, however psychiatric injuries cannot be combined with physical injuries.
We are working with the Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland (OFSWQ) – the Regulator – to develop training for doctors on the new Guide and updating Notice of Assessment forms. The Regulator will publish the GEPI in the Queensland Government Gazette.
- The criteria for Rehab and Return to Work Co-ordinators (RRTWC) has changed.
If an employer is in a ‘high risk industry’ and wages in the preceding year are greater than 2600 x QOTE (Queensland ordinary time earnings), then they must have a RRTWC. If an employer is not in a ‘high risk industry’ they only need a RRTWC if wages are greater than 5200 x QOTE. For 2013-2014 QOTE is $1370.10. RRTWCs are no longer required to complete a workplace rehabilitation course through a registered training organisation. Instead RRTWCs must be appropriately qualified.
These changes are effective from 29 October 2013:
- Employment to be ‘the major significant contributing factor’ for psychological or psychiatric claims.
For psychological or psychiatric injuries (including aggravations of pre-existing conditions) workers are only entitled to compensation if their employment was ‘the major significant contributing factor’ to their condition.
- Employers can request a prospective worker to provide them with information about pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.
Disclosure of pre-existing conditions applies to ‘employment processes’ from 29 October 2013. An employer may ask a prospective worker in writing about pre-existing injuries or medical conditions. The request must be accompanied by specific information about the future duties and the implications if the worker fails to properly disclose their conditions. A worker may not be entitled to compensation or damages if they have knowingly made a false or misleading disclosure about an injury or condition and they suffer an aggravation of that injury or condition.
- Employers can request a prospective worker’s claims history summary from OFSWQ.
This request must be made on the approved form, with an application fee, and the prospective worker’s consent. OFSWQ will soon publish information about this process.
- Q-COMP regulatory functions to move to OFSWQ.
Most powers have moved to OFSWQ. These include: Medical Assessment Tribunals, reviews and appeals, self-insurance licensing, monitoring insurer performance, scheme data analysis and approved forms. As part of the integration, OFSWQ will absorb existing Q-COMP staff.
- OFSWQ to prosecute all worker fraud cases, and penalties increased.
OFSWQ will manage all prosecutions. WorkCover will send a detailed brief to OFSWQ if we reasonably believe someone has committed an offence. The penalties will increase to up to $55 000 or a maximum of five years imprisonment (previously up to $44 000 and maximum 18 months imprisonment).
- WorkCover to be responsible for Table of Costs with self-insurer consultation.
WorkCover now has responsibility for the various tables of costs, including medical, hospital and rehabilitation, and is working on the Medical Table of Costs due to be updated from 1 December 2013.
- Insurers to provide a mandatory accredited Return to Work (RTW) program for common law claimants.
Insurers must take all steps reasonably practicable to secure rehabilitation and early return to work. Insurers must develop and maintain a RTW program in consultation with the employer, worker and registered treatment providers. If a worker lodges a Notice of Claim they must be referred to an accredited RTW program, unless they can’t participate because of their injury. Common law rehabilitation applies to all claims, unless litigated.
- Close the potential loophole caused by Foster & Anor v Cameron  QCA 48.
The entitlement to damages for gratuitous care has been clarified.
Where can I find more information?
- WorkCover’s website has information available at workcoverqld.com.au/legislativeamendments. This information will continue to be updated as we work with customers and stakeholders to implement the legislative changes.
- You can speak with your Relationship Manager, or call WorkCover on 1300 362 128.
- Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland (incorporating Workplace Health and Safety Queensland) website: deir.qld.gov.au.