QLD: Lobby Groups Agitate for Overhaul of Workers’ Compensation

queensland_government_logo_transparentQueensland is the only jurisdiction in which the state underwrites and runs a workers compensation scheme and lobby groups are agitating for an overhaul.

State-owned WorkCover, which manages 90 per cent of claims, reaped $ 1.4 billion in premiums last year.

Insurers and employer groups are pushing for an overhaul of the scheme, especially injury tests.

But lawyers believe such a move would result in inaccurate injury assessments.

A Parliamentary committee is currently assessing submissions on the scheme, with a report due back on February 28.

Unions, fearing privatisation, last week launched a billboard campaign (refer to Safetyculture’s story).

WorkCover has $ 3.4 billion in assets with excess funds invested with Queensland Investment Corporation.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said privatisation of workers’ compensation would trigger higher premiums and lower protections.

However, the Insurance Council of Australia suggested privatising the scheme could address “financial risks” associated with the state funding and covering payouts.

It pointed to research noting privatisation would shift the risk of unforseen contingencies or unfunded payouts from taxpayers to insurers.

The ICA also said insurers could price risk better than government.

The ICA, insurance giant Suncorp, and Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland pushed for “thresholds” – minimum levels of impairment – at which injured workers can sue for common law damages.

Currently, some workers can accept a statutory lump sum or sue, or do both in more severe cases.

“Unrestricted and uncapped common law entitlements … remain a fundamental financial risk to the scheme as entitlements cannot be accurately predicted,” Suncorp said.

CCIQ claimed the lack of thresholds meant law firms increased claims against WorkCover, which for cost reasons were settled rather than litigated.

But the Australian Lawyers Alliance argued thresholds failed to reduce premiums elsewhere.

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