Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 4577..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
The act's benefit structure has a major financial incentive to return to work in the form of a step down in benefits from pre-injury earnings to 65 per cent of pre-injury earnings after the worker has been off for 26 weeks. Currently, return to work, even for a day, can mean the injured worker can claim a new 26-week period of pre-injury earning benefits. This has the potential to allow an injured worker to abuse the scheme. The step down is a major incentive for injured workers to return to work and should not be open to abuse. The bill will clarify that all periods of absence from work due to the same injury should be treated as cumulative and the initial 26-week period should be applied once to any one injury.
Encouraging the early reporting of injures can help cover the costs of workers compensation if it means that injury management and return to work strategies are put in place sooner. Currently employers are not entitled to be indemnified by their insurer for the costs of weekly benefits payable to employees if they fail to report an injury to their insurer within 48 hours. The bill clarifies that an employer who fails to report an injury to their insurer within 48 hours is only entitled to be reimbursed for weekly benefits from the time they give notice of the injury to the insurer. The bill will clarify that it is not an offence for an insurer to fail to pay an invoice it has not received from a provider. The bill proposes that employers may consult with a broad range of people when developing a return to work program for injured workers. For example, employers may choose to consult with people who have expertise in occupational health and safety.
The bill proposes a new provision allowing for the apportionment of the costs of administration of the act among approved insurers and self-insurers. The provisions clarify that the costs of administration include costs incurred by the Magistrates Court in relation to workers compensation matters. Liability for these costs shall be met by those who were approved insurers or self-insurers on the basis of the costs attributable to each insurer or self-insurer during the year. The government will disclose the basis for attributions to ensure transparency.
The amendments proposed by the bill will allow the territory courts to make publicity orders against people convicted of offences against the Workers Compensation Act. These provisions are based on similar provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 and the Dangerous Substances Act 2004. Publicity orders can assist in ensuring employers' compliance with the legislative framework.
Finally, the bill will repeal chapter 12 of the act dealing with infringement notices. A new schedule will be created by regulation under the Magistrates Court Act. This move will further progress government policy on creating a single, consistent regime for infringement notices issued under ACT legislation. I commend the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2005 No 2 to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Mulcahy ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Planning and Environment-Standing Committee
Debate resumed from 17 November 2005, on motion by Mr Gentleman: