New workers comp bill flawed and ambiguous

ALA

Lawyers representing injured workers say the Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Bill 2022 is flawed and ambiguous, and will create further uncertainty for workers.

“We are very concerned that the Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Amendment Bill does not do all that it promised,” said Ms Sarah Vinall, State President, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA). “The Bill needs revision and must not be rushed through parliament without proper consultation with all stakeholders.”

The Government has said that the intention of the Bill is to ensure that people injured at work can combine their injuries for compensation claims as determined by the Summerfield decision in the South Australian Supreme Court last year.

“However, the Bill does not make it clear that this interpretation of the same injury or same cause test will apply,” said Ms Vinall. “It would be devastating to workers if this Bill is passed in its current form reducing entitlements on the understanding that the Summerfield interpretation applies, but the interpretation is reconsidered or changed by the courts.

“This uncertainty can be fixed by adding a note to the Bill to make it clear that the principles of the Summerfield case are entrenched in this legislation.”

The ALA also has serious concerns about the transitional provisions in the Bill and the lack of clear timeframes.

“The transitional provisions are unfair, do not make sense and are ambiguous,” said Ms Vinall. “We are very concerned that the Bill states that the changes will apply from a date to be set by proclamation. It is imperative that the changes are not retrospective and that they only apply to new injuries. Parliament should not agree to the legislation when they do not know what date it will apply from.

“The Government must disclose the detailed actuarial reports that they are relying on to make these decisions to all stakeholders. These documents need to be made available for proper review and consideration.

“These laws impact the long-term medical and financial situation of people who have suffered serious injury doing their job, and their impact must be properly considered.”

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