The Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (“the Act”) has become increasingly complex.
The Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Bill 2023, which is the product of extensive review and consultation dating back to 2009, makes significant changes to the Act.
Workers and employers should note the following major changes:
Doubling of the medical and health expenses cap (from $73,197 to $146,395) and extending the point at which weekly compensation payments step down (from 13 weeks to 26 weeks);
Covering catastrophic injuries in the workplace so that workers are under the Catastrophic Injuries Support Scheme and on the same footing as a person catastrophically injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident (lifetime tailored care and support); and
Amending the Limitation Act 2005 so that workers suffering silicosis are on the same footing as workers with asbestosis.
Further key technical changes include:
Clarifying the status of contractors in the definition of ‘worker’ (providing flexibility for regulations to extend cover to persons doing work in the gig economy and other non-conventional employment arrangements if the circumstances justify it in the future);
Facilitating the updating of the list of diseases presumed to be work-related through regulations;
Simplifying the method for calculating income compensation payments;
Improving insurer liability decision timeframes (including the requirement to make provisional payments to workers where a liability decision is not given in time);
Clarifying and providing more flexibility in settlement pathways:
no time constraint before a settlement can be negotiated and registered;
no liability necessarily be accepted by the insurer as a precondition for a settlement;
but safeguards remain (settlements must be genuine and workers must be aware of the consequences of registering a settlement);
Clarifying return to work duties and obligations;
Reinforcing a worker’s right to choose their own treating medical practitioner. This will also:
Prohibit employers or recruitment agencies from asking any person as part of pre-employment screening to disclose information about whether they have made any claim for compensation; and
Prevent any person disclosing information about a workers compensation claim previously made;
Consolidating safety net funds for claims associated with uninsured employers, insolvent insurers and self-insurers, and terrorism events
Updating fines and penalties for offences under the Act; and
Providing modernised frameworks for WorkCover WA to licence, approve, and regulate service providers.
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