- The Guardian
- Issue #2055
Photo: dmitri_66 – flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0).
The Australian Services Union has turned the spotlight on the Victorian government’s proposed cuts to the workers’ compensation scheme for injured workers. These changes would reduce eligibility for workers compensation and kick people with long-term injuries off the scheme.
Under the changes, workers won’t be able to claim weekly payments if they are unable to attend work due to stress from excessive workload or inappropriate behaviour, or due to mental injuries developing over time. Any medical treatment would only be covered for 13 weeks after injury.
Workers with long-term injury and disability will also be kicked off WorkCover payments if they can’t meet an arbitrary “20.1 per cent Whole Person Impairment” test. The guides for this test are not designed for assessing work capacity.
They do not factor in individual circumstances, such as transferable skills, language skills, age, place of work. The AMA Guides themselves say, “It must be emphasised and clearly understood that impairment percentages derived according to the Guide’s criteria should not be used to make direct financial awards or direct estimates of disabilities.”
This would mean, even if your doctor was to agree that you were unable to return to work again, you would no longer be eligible to receive payments beyond two and a half years.
These changes will force workers back into the job market before they are ready, or force them into poverty. “Our response to workplace injuries must be driven by best health practices and accept that mental health plays a key role in this,” states the union. “Ignoring stress and burnout in 21st century workplaces fails to ensure the scheme’s success in the future.”
“We have listened to injured workers who already know the struggles of obtaining adequate support after being injured at work. We have listened to our members in legal and advocacy positions who work every day to ensure injured members receive what they’re entitled to. We have listened to our members who know how difficult it is to access medical services, particularly specialist and psychological support.
“We stand with injured workers and unions opposing these changes.”