Proposed changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws will disadvantage injured workers and mean workers are more likely to have to fight through the tribunal and courts to receive compensation, 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 (ALA). “We have submitted our concerns to Return to Work SA and to the Treasurer Rob Lucas but have received no response as yet.
“Return to Work SA and the Minister seem to be changing the law to suit themselves without engaging in any meaningful consultation. The changes are going to result in more disputes and legal action, and make it harder for injured workers to receive fair compensation.
“It is inappropriate that such dramatic changes that disadvantage workers are being made by revising the Impairment Assessment Guidelines. If such widespread changes are to be made, this should be done by amending the legislation. This would allow for proper scrutiny of the changes and the likely impact.”
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.
“We need to remember that we are dealing with individuals who have been injured while working to support themselves and their families,” said Ms Vinall. “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.”
Read the ALA submission here: https://www.lawyersalliance.com.au/documents/item/2138