Australia: Public briefing on proposed changes to Queensland workers' compensation scheme

Alert - 7 August 2015

On 16 July 2015 HopgoodGanim Lawyers' Insurance and Risk Team published an alert discussing the proposed changes to Queensland's workers' compensation scheme contemplated by the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill) which was introduced to Parliament the previous day (see " Significant changes to Queensland workers' compensation scheme proposed").

On 6 August 2015, the Parliamentary Finance and Administration Committee (the Committee) held a public briefing on the impacts the proposed amendment Bill will have on the Queensland workers' compensation scheme. Here is HopgoodGanim's summary of the briefing prepared by Partner Robert Tidbury and Associate Claire Bruggemann.    

The Committee, chaired by Ms Di Farmer, Member for Bulimba, heard submissions by Paul Goldsbrough (Executive Director, Workers' Compensation and Policy Services, Queensland Treasury Department) and Mark Roche (Acting Deputy Commissioner, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services).

These submissions were followed by a series of questions delivered by members of the Committee.  Most of the questions pertained to the entitlement and accessibility to compensation for firefighters by the introduction of the deemed disease provisions for firefighters with prescribed diseases.

Additional questions related to the financial impacts the proposed changes will have on self-insured employers.

In response, Mr Goldsbrough observed that the impact on self-insured employers depends on how they manage their cohort of claims affected by the proposed legislative changes. It was observed that overall costs would be lowered if claims were able to be negotiated quickly.

In that regard, Mr Goldsbrough identified that it was difficult to determine with any precision the overall impact the legislative amendments will have on self-insured employers due to the differing nature of their industries and their varying claims experience.

Other questions delivered by members of the Committee related to the number of injured workers who are likely to qualify for additional compensation benefits by virtue of their sustaining a degree of permanent impairment (DPI) less than 6% for injuries sustained in the period 15 October 2013 to 31 January 2015.  In response, it was noted that, in this period, 5,912 statutory claims had been made with DPI's of less than 6%.  It was submitted that in circumstances where it was estimated that but for the imposition of the 5% or greater threshold, approximately 2,700 of these claims would have gone to common law.

Further questions were asked in relation to the current entitlement for employers to obtain prospective employees claims history statements.  It was submitted that as at June 2015, 26,977 requests had been made by employers (an average of 103 requests per day or 515 requests per week), and that the number of requests delivered by employers has been continually increasing.  Of the employers requesting the history statements, 9 out of 10 were labour hire employers.  Notably, it was submitted that one Queensland employer was responsible for approximately 15% of all requests made (4,236 requests).

The Committee advised the hearing's participants that Committee members had further questions which would be delivered in writing.

As outlined in our previous alert, the Committee has issued an invitation for submissions to be made addressing any aspect of the Bill from all interested parties.  The closing date for these submissions has now been extended to Monday, 10 August 2015 at 10:00am.

A further public hearing is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 13 August 2015, with a time to be confirmed.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

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Authors
Claire Bruggemann
 
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