Release date: 14/06/2022

Workers and businesses will be protected in Return to Work reforms, after an agreement was reached between the Malinauskas Labor Government, business and worker representatives.

This week, the government will introduce the Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Bill 2022 which will seek to ensure injured workers get the protection they need while also protecting businesses from significant hikes in premiums.

The Bill will ensure injured workers with the same level of impairment are treated the same, rather than receiving different support based on whether they suffered their injuries from one event or a series of related events.

Importantly, to ensure the scheme is sustainable and premiums are kept below the legislated maximum target of 2 per cent, the Bill identifies cost savings in other areas of the scheme.

The three key elements are:

  1. Increasing the ‘seriously injured’ threshold for physical injuries to 35% whole person impairment (WPI)
    • This recognises it is comparatively easier to reach the seriously injured threshold by combining injuries, as permitted in the Summerfield judgment.
  2. Giving ‘seriously injured’ workers the choice to receive a single lump-sum payment instead of weekly payments until retirement age
    • This lump-sum payment will be equivalent to the maximum economic-loss payment the worker would receive if they were not ‘seriously injured’.
  3. Redemptions will be offered to ‘seriously injured’ workers
    • Return to Work SA will offer redemptions of weekly payments to current seriously injured workers to reduce the past claims liability.
    • These redemption offers will be on a ‘one-time only’ basis because all new ‘seriously injured’ workers will be able to elect to receive a lump-sum payment instead under the option above.

The Summerfield legal decision set a new precedent for workers’ compensation. The former Marshall Liberal Government kicked the can down the road on this issue. Without this legislative change, businesses were facing premiums of 2.2 per cent or more, which would have been the highest of any state in Australia.


Quotes

Attributable to Peter Malinauskas

I’m pleased we have been able to reach an agreement which protects workers and business.

I have long said I want to lead a pro-business Labor Government, which unashamedly protects workers but also strongly supports businesses.

This is a sensible compromise which ensures injured workers will get the protection they need, while also ensuring businesses are not hit with significant increases in their Return to Work premiums.

Attributable to Kyam Maher

This is a complicated and contentious area of public policy.

The former Marshall Liberal Government kicked the can down the road on this issue and decided it was all too hard.

The Malinauskas Labor Government has taken action. In a relatively short period of time we have managed to reach an agreement with representatives for business and workers which will establish a sustainable Return to Work scheme for years to come, and give injured workers more choice about the support the receive.