The Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Arbitration) Act 2021 (the Act) has been in effect in Victoria since 1 September 2022.1
The effect of the Act is that the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS) 2 has been rebranded as the Workplace Injury Commission (WIC) 3, with the introduction of a new arbitration service.
The purpose of the Act is to "provide arbitration of certain disputes under that Act so as to facilitate the fair and final resolution of those disputes in an informal, inexpensive and timely manner".
The formal commencement of the Act is 1 January 2023, if the provision does not come into operation before the commencement date.
Main changes made:
The introduction of a new arbitration service aims to provide injured workers with an alternative dispute resolution to the issuing of proceedings in the Magistrates Court, which is often costly, time-consuming, and complex. In the event a matter is not resolved through conciliation, the new service provides injured workers with the option to have their matter arbitrated by the WIC instead of commencing court proceedings. Through arbitration, the hearing must be commenced within 30 days of the dispute being referred. Once an application for arbitration commences, a hearing will generally conclude within 60 days, with a determination to be made within 2 weeks of the hearing concluding. This process will aim to ensure disputes are resolved within 4 months.
The commission will have authority to make determinations for the disputes, including compensation for weekly earnings, medical expenses, superannuation payments, or interest payable.
These changes are underpinned by the need for economical and quick processes for injured Victorian workers – with the intended aim to resolve workers compensation disputes in a efficient manner.
Time will tell whether these aims are realised.
1 Roxanne Libatique, 'Victoria Introduces New Arbitration Service for Workers' Comp Disputes' Insurance Business Australia (Web Page, 22 July 2022) < HTTPS://WWW.INSURANCEBUSINESSMAG.COM/AU/NEWS/BREAKING-NEWS/VICTORIA-INTRODUCES-NEW-ARBITRATION-SERVICE-FOR-WORKERS-COMP-DISPUTES-413981.ASPX >.
3 Insurance Business Australia, (n 1).
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