Injured workers in South Australia will be badly affected by proposed changes to the workers’ compensation laws which are being made without proper scrutiny, say lawyers.
“Radical changes are being proposed to the SA workers compensation scheme which will have a severe and negative impact on people injured at work,” says Ms Sarah Vinall, SA President, Australian Lawyers Alliance. “We are very concerned that these changes are being made through a back-door method that avoids parliamentary review and debate.
“The changes are being made by revising the Minister’s guidelines known as the Impairment Assessment Guidelines which is a sneaky way to modify the Return to Work Act 2014 without the involvement of Parliament.”
The proposed changes will substantially reduce the compensation offered to workers who are injured at work by modifying the way the system works in relation to pre-existing and unrelated injuries or damage. Any signs of pre-existing degeneration or injury – whether or not they were symptomatic prior to the injury that occurred at work – will result in deductions to the injury rating.
The changes will also limit a worker’s ability to choose the doctor they believe is best suited to assess their injury. Any worker who has had surgery as a result of the injury will be required to have a surgeon assess the impairment rather than a more appropriate expert, such as an occupational physician.
“Return to Work SA and the Minister seem to be changing the law to suit themselves without engaging in any meaningful consultation,” said Ms Vinall. “The changes are going to result in more disputes and legal action, and make it harder for injured workers to receive fair compensation.
“We need to remember that we are dealing with individuals who have been injured while working to support themselves and their families. The Government’s priority must be to ensure that anyone who is injured at work receives the support they need and fair compensation to look after themselves and their families.
“If the proposed changes are made, thousands of workers will have their entitlement to a lump sum payment reduced to nothing.
“The changes significantly impact the rights of injured workers. We don’t think they should be made and we certainly don’t think they should be made by sliding them through the back door, without Parliamentary oversight.”