Page 4223 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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We have also brought the territory’s arrangements for workers who operate across borders into alignment with those in New South Wales. This was to ensure that both all territory workers have adequate workers compensation cover and that employers need insure their workers only once, regardless of how many states or territories they perform their work in. These changes have made the workers compensation scheme more accessible and efficient for employers and will reduce insurance costs.

The changes provided for in this bill go one step further. Today we are introducing legislation that will help employers understand and comply with their workers compensation obligations and build employers’ capacity to assist the injured workers to recover and return to work. These reforms are just one more way that the government will be delivering on our pre-election commitment to improve return-to-work outcomes for injured workers.

Prior to the introduction of Access Canberra, WorkSafe ACT employed workers compensation inspectors and health and safety inspectors. These inspectors operated independently of each other when it came to performing employer visits to deliver information services, conduct compliance checks or investigate complaints. However, through the Access Canberra initiative, WorkSafe ACT is adopting a more effective, holistic compliance model. WorkSafe’s specialised work health and safety inspectors will be trained to conduct workers compensation compliance checks, and vice versa. Currently, employers in the ACT cannot refuse entry to WorkSafe inspectors who are checking that a work site complies with work health and safety standards. However, when it comes to workers compensation, employers can refuse to allow inspectors to enter their work site.

This can undermine the inspectorate’s ability to verify that an employer has appropriate insurance in place, or to intervene or to ensure proper return-to-work supports are being provided for injured workers. By aligning inspector rights of entry powers for workers compensation with work safety arrangements, the bill will allow integrated safety and injury management education, awareness, compliance and enforcement activities to be rolled out across the territory.

This is an important reform. I have spoken with numerous employers and union representatives who are deeply concerned about the impact of workers compensation non-compliance. They are concerned because businesses that evade paying the correct workers compensation premium can gain an unfair competitive advantage over employers that do the right thing. Furthermore, where an employer has no workers compensation insurance, the cost of injury claims by their workers is often borne by other employers. More effective compliance and enforcement tools will help to create a level playing field and reduce insurance costs for all employers.This reform is also responsive to a recommendation of the getting home safely inquiry into the construction industry and its safety there. Since the government accepted the recommendations of the getting home safely report, there have been no deaths on ACT building and construction sites and injury rates have decreased markedly.

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