The Government announced a $1 billion reform package that will have significant benefits for employers, workers and the way we do business.

With a workers compensation system in the black for a number of years now, the Government made a commitment to return one-third of the annual surplus to employers and two-thirds to injured workers by way of enhanced benefits.

What does it mean for employers?

This financial year, businesses across NSW can expect between $170-$200 million returned via a new premium performance discount. Businesses that perform well in terms of good safety systems, low injury claims costs and good return to work rates can expect a discount off their premiums by between 5 and 20 per cent (7.5 per cent for small employers).

For medium to large businesses, this is just one of a number of financial incentives recently introduced that directly links safety with financial rewards.

You can read more about the other incentives for medium to large businesses on the WorkCover website.

What does it mean for injured workers?

Legislation was passed on 13 August 2015 that will see a number of enhanced benefits for injured workers including lifetime access for all workers who require artificial aids, such as prosthetics and hearing aids, and lifetime medical benefits for injured workers with high needs.

Other benefits include return to work assistance to help all injured workers to accept a job with a new employer and an education and retraining assistance of up to $8000 to help those longer term unemployed workers who can’t return to their pre-injury career.

There are other benefits; doubling the medical benefits for all workers from 12 months to two years, from when weekly payments stop or date of claim, and generous increases in lump sum payments for permanent impairment and death benefits. You can read more about benefits for workers here.

Changes to the system

In response to various inquiries and reviews into the workers compensation system that highlighted a conflict of interest with one organisation having both a regulatory and insurance function, new legislation to bring about structural reforms has also been passed.

Two new organisations are now operating to regulate the State’s insurance schemes and regulate work health and safety.

The structural changes relate to Safety, Return to Work and Support, which was the government ‘umbrella’ organisation that encompasses WorkCover, Motor Accidents Authority, Lifetime Care and Support and the Dust Diseases Board.

There are now three discrete agencies:

  • Insurance & Care NSW (icare) – a single customer-focused insurance and care service provider
  • State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) – a new independent insurance regulator
  • SafeWork NSW – an independent workplace safety regulator.

All existing agencies have been brought under the banner of one of these three.

icare is the organisation that is delivering customer-centred services to those served by the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer, Lifetime Care and Support Authority, Dust Diseases Authority, SICorp and Sporting Injuries Compensation Authority.

It is a centre of excellence for long-term care needs, care for people with the most severe injuries (road or workplaces), helping people return to work and improving quality of life outcomes.

Insurance & Care NSW means that the workers compensation scheme will be less adversarial, there will be fewer forms and less bureaucracy, and injured workers will have much more say in their treatment and return to work pathway.

It will make it easier for people to receive their benefits, be treated as quickly as possible, track claims and return to work. icare will be the agent of change to simplify the workers compensation scheme. It will roll out a range of online and other tools, including mobile apps, to make the customer’s journey simpler and more transparent.

SafeWork NSW is the state’s workplace health and safety regulator. Its focus is on harm prevention and improving the safety culture in NSW workplaces. SafeWork NSW also includes the establishment of a centre of excellence for work, health and safety.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has assumed the regulatory functions of WorkCover NSW in relation to workers compensation insurance, the Motor Accident Authority in relation to Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance and the regulatory functions relating to Home Building Compensation.

SIRA focuses on ensuring key public policy outcomes are being achieved in relation to service delivery to injured people, affordability, and the effective management and sustainability of the insurance schemes.

The new organisations commenced on 1 September 2015. Some reforms to benefits for injured workers have already commenced while others are yet to be proclaimed by the government, but planning work is underway. The insurancereforms.nsw.gov.au website is updated regularly with the latest information.

Fair, sustainable and customer-centred – the end result will be a simplified workers compensation system for workers and employers.

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