Compensation crackdown from WorkSafe Victoria
Victoria’s work protection body has cracked down on payments to injured workers, with a 43 per cent increase in the number of disputes arising from benefit terminations.
A recent report showed disputes with WorkSafe Victoria had increased by almost 15 per cent between the April 2011 to March 2012 period, and April 2012 to March 2013 period.
Even more startling was the 43 per cent increase in the number of disputes arising from the termination of WorkSafe payments.
The report also showed the number of long-term entitlement disputes had increased by 22 per cent. Disputes over the payment of medical and similar services had increased by 20 per cent during the same period.
WorkSafe is “inappropriately rejecting claims”, Victorian Community and Public Sector Union Work Cover services director, Geoff Lewin said.
“The figures confirm that WorkCover’s agents [the insurance industry] have got out of control, rejecting and terminating workers’ entitlements without any real scrutiny from WorkSafe,” Mr Lewin said.
“Agents are reversing the onus of proof, rejecting claims, and forcing workers to either walk away, or proceed to the court for justice.”
He called for a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of agents and WorkSafe as a result of these figures.
“It is inappropriate for injured workers’ entitlements to be determined by the Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe) who is also the regulator,” Mr Lewin said.
“The dual position of the Authority is not acceptable, and an independent Regulator should be immediately set up to regulate the scheme without bias.
Agent representatives’ have made clear that they are bound by instruction from the Authority in rejecting claims, and not resolving them through the disputes processes of the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service.
The regulator can refuse to make payments beyond a conciliation conference, or only partially reimburse injured workers for medical bills relating to their workplace injury.
The union claims that WorkSafe had rejected claims at more than twice the rate of its counterpart in NSW Workcover.
The figures come after WorkSafe executive Denise Cosgrove said those on long-term benefits should be cut like “low-hanging fruit”.
Last year the Victorian government announced it would take $471.5 million in dividends out of the Victorian WorkCover Authority over the next four years in order to prop up the state’s budget, but claimed it would not affect services or jeopardise workplace safety.
A spokesman for WorkSafe said the authority and its agents were committed to providing “fair and high quality service” to injured workers and employers.
It rejected suggestions that it was ‘cracking down’ on the entitlements of injured workers.
It said that any change to an injured worker’s entitlements was done in full accordance with the Accident Compensation Act 1985 and the conciliation system was designed to ensure “that such sensitive decisions can be reviewed at any time by an independent umpire.”
WorkSafe reported in March that a surge in common law claims had dented the financial performance of the state’s workers compensation scheme.
A spike in already rising levels of common law claims added about $150 million to liabilities for the half year.