Page 5276 - Week 14 - Thursday, 19 November 2009
The ACT scheme is far from competitive and far from efficient in its functioning when compared to other Australian workers compensation systems. Significantly, businesses report the cost of operating in the ACT can be a disincentive to both existing and potential entrants to the territory’s employer market. Businesses also report they are increasingly under pressure to operate outside the territory or to structure their business in a way that moves workers through the jurisdiction rather than establishing a permanent workforce within it. This is of itself creating issues for our own default insurance fund, the safety net for workers of uninsured employers.
The bill proposes a range of improvements to the scheme that, over time and in conjunction with further planned reform, will deliver an affordable system for employers, fair treatment of injured workers, improved performance of scheme providers and an effective governance and management regime for the scheme. The improvements outlined in this bill are intended to be the first step in achieving the objectives of the 2006 review.
The purpose of this amending legislation is threefold: to reduce red tape and administration costs; to implement the new national framework for the approval of workplace rehabilitation providers; and to strengthen the compliance framework.
Firstly, the bill gives effect to the government’s intention to reduce administrative barriers to workers compensation compliance and improve the affordability of behaviour that upholds the purpose, the intent and the operation of the workers compensation scheme. The bill eliminates the requirements for employers to provide both a statutory declaration and a certificate from a recognised auditor when providing wage-related information to insurers. It is estimated that these changes will save ACT employers over $4 million annually.
The bill further reduces administration costs by refocusing rehabilitation services to ensure a more targeted and effective use of resources. Insurers will no longer be required to involve the services of a rehabilitation provider in the development of an injured worker’s personal injury plan. The bill refocuses the use of the rehabilitation providers to ensure a timely and appropriate use of their workplace rehabilitation expertise.
The bill requires the insurers to appoint a rehabilitation provider in the event that an injured worker’s return to work is not progressing as expected. If, at four weeks after the injury was notified, the worker has been unable to return to work, then the insurer will appoint a rehabilitation provider. The extent of the provider’s involvement in the claim will depend on the individual facts of each case. These provisions will not preclude an insurer from appointing a rehabilitation provider earlier in the life of the claim if required. This amendment ensures that the assistance of a third party is available if a claim is not progressing as well as expected. It also injects a degree of transparency about the provision of rehabilitation services to injured territory workers.
Secondly, the bill enshrines a new national framework for the approval of workplace rehabilitation providers. The framework has been developed by the national heads of workers compensation authorities and at its core establishes a system of mutual recognition for rehabilitation providers. Where a provider is approved in one workers