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Issue #1568      10 October 2012

NSW government: Scrap recent compo changes, start again

What is outrageous about the O’Farrell government’s attack on injured workers’ entitlements is that they’ve failed to look at the facts. It is injured workers and the community who already bear an overwhelming majority of the costs associated with their injuries or illnesses. Injured workers much more so. Employers (and no doubt insurers), on the other hand continue to get an increasingly free-ride.

Poor injury management ends up being paid for by taxpayers as more and more injured workers fail to make successful transitions back into the workforce. Employers routinely view many people who have been unfortunate enough to be on workers’ compensation as liabilities best avoided, which limits the potential injured workers (especially with long term injuries and psychological injuries) from ever returning to pre-injury employment status and earning capacity. Many long-term injured workers end up being forced onto unemployment benefits at taxpayer’s expense. Employers have limited liability and therefore little incentive to take the health, safety and wellbeing on injured workers seriously.

According to the 2012 Safe Work Australia report the estimated distributed costs of workplace related injury and illness in Australia are:

Employers bear 5 percent of the total cost – this includes loss of productivity from absent workers, recruitment and retraining costs and fines and penalties from breaches of work health and safety regulations. Injured workers bear 74 percent of the costs – costs include loss of current and future income and non-compensated medical expenses. The community bears 21 percent of the total cost – this includes social welfare payments, medical and health scheme costs and loss of potential output and revenue.

An extensive survey carried out before the recent changes to WorkCover in NSW highlighted the following:

For people on workers’ compensation, coping with injury or illness is often the least of their worries. Dealing with uncaring and hostile employers and/or insurers is a far greater cause of stress to people on workers’ compensation than their injuries and/or illnesses.

Of those surveyed, 42 percent nominated dealing with their employer/insurer as the biggest cause of stress. A further 20 percent said dealing with the workers’ compensation system was the major stress factor. Only 16 percent named their injury or illness as the most stressful factor.

An alarming 59 percent of survey respondents reported having contemplated suicide following their injury.

The system has now become even more hostile toward injured workers. Ideally the O’Farrell government are hoping that these new laws will be very effective in coercing anyone with an injury onto social security and Medicare whilst employers will enjoy contained premiums, insurers will experience great profits and the state government will be overseeing a system that no longer concerns itself with workplace related injuries. And one day the entire system can be closed off.

To sign a petition against the government’s attack on WorkCover go to change.org  

Next article – NSW violent offender proposals fail fairness test

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