Posted on 10 Jul 2014
A lawyer has warned that the Federal Government’s proposed amendments to its federal workers' compensation scheme, Comcare, will see many workers' rights lost and their health and safety protections compromised.
Slater and Gordon Comcare lawyer Katrina Stouppos said the proposed amendments to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation legislation were extremely concerning.
“If these changes go ahead, it will substantially erode health and safety protections currently afforded to workers and make injured workers even more vulnerable,” Ms Stouppos said.
“The evidence put to the Senate enquiry about the loss of health and safety regulations in high risk industries on its own, should be enough to convince the Federal Government not to proceed with this bill.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to show compassion and withdraw the bill.”
Ms Stouppos said it was worrying that under the changes, private sector employers would be allowed to move out of state-based workers’ compensation schemes to the less costly national scheme to self-insure.
“Opening up the Comcare scheme to private sector employers will certainly cut costs for the employer, but sadly, those costs will eventually fall to the injured worker and their family,” Ms Stouppos said.
“The Comcare federal workers’ compensation scheme was originally designed as a small compensation scheme to cover Commonwealth public servants, not workers in high risk industries.
“The limited capacity and regulatory resources of the Comcare scheme mean there will be less health and safety monitoring by employers and reduced employer obligations to make medical and other compensation payments when workers are injured.
“It will also result in more pressure being placed on the Comcare dispute resolution system and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which already take much longer than state schemes to resolve cases.
“Comcare’s current dispute resolution system is just not equipped to deal with an influx of new self-insured employers.”
Lastly, Ms Stouppos said the amendments would see injured workers lose access to common law rights, which is vital in providing compensation for loss of earnings and pain and suffering when the employer is found negligent.
“One of the reasons why Comcare is cheaper for employers is because it takes away common law protection for injured workers,” Ms Stouppos said.
“Under Comcare, compensation for lasting injuries caused by the negligence of an employer is the lowest in the country and capped at $110,000.
“Maintaining common law rights are vital to health and safety of employees because it holds employers accountable should their actions or failures cause an employee to become injured.”