Employers welcome NSW workers comp reforms

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Employers welcome NSW workers comp reforms

Proposed WorkCover reforms, including reductions in weekly payments after thirteen weeks, are necessary to address cost blowouts in the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, but will also help to get injured workers back to work faster, according to the Alliance for a Safer and Competitive Workplace.

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Proposed WorkCover reforms, including reductions in weekly payments after thirteen weeks, are necessary to address cost blowouts in the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, but will also help to get injured workers back to work faster, according to the Alliance for a Safer and Competitive Workplace.

Responding to a new report released by the parliamentary committee reviewing WorkCover, the Alliance members — NSW Business Chamber, Ai Group, NSW Farmer’s Association, Pain Australia and Tourism & Transport Forum — urged Parliament to consider the interests of all stakeholders, but also to ‘keep its resolve’ in making the ‘fundamental’ changes’ required to bring the state scheme in line with those schemes provided by other jurisdictions, particularly Victoria and Queensland. 
 
The Alliance spokesman and CEO of the NSW Business Chamber, Stephen Cartwright, said business, industry, employees and the state ‘all acknowledge the critical need for reform’. 
 
‘A more efficient, cost effective scheme’
 
‘The Scheme’s $4.1b deficit is a crystal clear indication that it is not working and it must be fixed,’ he said.
 
‘Notwithstanding what some opponents to the change would suggest, adopting proposals that align the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme with the more efficient and cost effective Victorian WorkSafe scheme will have a stark impact on premiums paid by businesses and employers across the state.’
 
‘As an example, it [is] vital to control the deficit and that stepping down weekly benefits payments after 13 weeks as happens in Victoria was absolutely necessary.’
 
‘Weekly benefits payments are one of the biggest cost blow outs in the scheme.’
 
Lower premiums, better RTW outcomes
 
Cartwright said PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated that employers could be paying a lower average premium rate of between 1.19% and 1.24% under the ‘sustainable’ scheme proposed by the committee rather than trying to find another $755m because the Target Premium Collection Rate has to be increased to 2.18% — a 28% increase in premiums.
 
‘If the proposed reforms which were costed were implemented, NSW premiums would be brought into line with our neighbours in Victoria and Queensland,’ he said.
 
‘This would immediately make NSW a better place to do business and help to grow the economy and create additional employment.’
 
‘Of course the reforms will also help to get injured workers back to work faster — something WorkSafe [Victoria] does better today than the NSW scheme.’
 
‘Today, New South Wales premiums are up to 60 per cent higher than other states and risk getting higher. The average premium rate today in Queensland is 1.42 per cent and 1.29 per cent in Victoria.’
 
Adopt reforms ‘swiftly’
 
Ai Group NSW director Mark Goodsell said the report released by the Joint Select Committee reveals that Parliament must ‘focus on the big drivers of costs and swiftly adopt bold reforms’.
 
‘We can’t afford for Parliament to be distracted by the various minor issues and policy options,’ he said.
 
‘The Alliance strongly endorses the comments by the scheme actuary that “... it needs to be recognised that legislation is just one part of the necessary change to introduce substantive benefit reform as intended. There also needs to be a strong focus on change management and implementation. In particular it requires a focused capability by the regulator (WorkCover), the Nominal Insurer and Scheme Agents”.’  

‘A fair approach’
 
Meanwhile, Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) CEO Margy Osmond said the committee’s proposals to align the NSW workers compensation legislation more closely with existing legislation in other jurisdictions like Victoria are a ‘welcome move’, especially for retailers operating across jurisdictions.
 
‘Retailers particularly welcome the focus on return to work, which we believe is important for the mental and physical health of employees,’ she said.
 
Osmond highlighted the fact that the recommendations remove responsibility for disease from employers, unless the workplace is the ‘main contributing factor in the contraction, aggravation, exacerbation or deterioration of the disease’.
 
‘This is a much needed change to the legislation,’ she said.
 
‘The recommendations in the report, not least of which is that a further, more in-depth analysis of the scheme is needed, are roundly welcomed by the retail sector as a common sense approach to the huge issue of workers compensation and ensuring long-term solvency of the scheme.’
 
‘These recommendations, if accepted, will mean a fair approach for workers and employers.’
 
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