This year has been one of almost overnight change to the workers compensation scheme is South Australia. There was little consultation and little time for injured workers to seek advice.
For some injured workers, the effect will be minimal. For others, it will mean a huge reduction to their entitlements. The effects may be felt for years to come. It will influence the efficiency of the courts as they try to deal with what the rush through changes mean and it will cause distress, confusion and a sense of inequality and disparity between injured workers (potentially with the same or similar injuries).
The most significant of the changes to the Return to Work Act 2014 is the increase to the threshold for a worker to be classified as a “seriously injured worker”.
In a move justified by “scheme affordability and sustainability”, an injured worker, in order to reach seriously injured worker status, will now need to be assessed as having a 35% whole person impairment. The threshold was previously 30%. It has always been difficult for an injured worker to reach the seriously injured threshold and it has now become that much harder, particularly in circumstances where the insurers continue to take a combative approach to the combination of injuries arising from the same trauma or cause. This is in addition to the significant restriction to any ongoing entitlement for totally incapacitated workers which were introduced in 2015.
The entitlements that arise from a seriously injured worker classification are an important way to support people who are often unable to work for the rest of their lives. A seriously injured worker will receive income until retirement age as well as ongoing medical expenses.
It appears to be inherently unfair and something that most injured workers would not be aware of.
If you need any further advice on this issue, please contact DBH for a free first interview as to your options.