Injured Queensland workers could find themselves denied access to common law compensation, after the Government rushed new legislation into state parliament today.
Slater and Gordon General Manager Karen Simpson said the introduction of a 5% permanent impairment threshold, will limit access to compensation for workplace injuries caused by negligence for any worker assessed below that figure.
“Previously, all workers who were injured as a result of negligence at work had the right to seek common law compensation,” Ms Simpson said.
“Regardless of how unfair it is to individual workers who suffer ongoing pain and financial hardship, if the laws are passed, injured workers will be prevented from holding the negligent party accountable, if they do not meet the new impairment threshold.
“This is despite the fact that a worker may have debilitating injuries that permanently affect their ability to perform their normal work duties.
“In a period when most families are struggling to meet the household budget, workers may be forced to rely on our already overstretched welfare system.”
Ms Simpson said the recent overhaul of the Work Cover Scheme in 2011 left Queensland workers better protected than most other states.
“What’s more, WorkCover Queensland’s profit more than doubled this financial year – up from $199 million to $517 million - and this strong financial position is one of the reasons Queensland employers have been paying on average the lowest premiums in the nation for the past 10 years.
“These changes will seriously erode what was once one of the nation’s most balanced, competitive and sustainable workers’ compensation schemes,” Ms Simpson said.
“If two workers suffer painful crush injuries in the same accident due to falling scaffolding and after medical rehabilitation one is assessed at five per cent and the other at six per cent, only the worker assessed at six per cent is entitled to common law compensation.
“That means the worker and their family with no entitlement face an uncertain financial future,” she said.